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The World’s Fair transformed Spokane’s downtown 50 years ago

Spokane leaders sought advice from Seattle, which had hosted a fair in 1962, for guidance on organizing their own world’s fair, Youngs said. They were advised that a fair was a great idea and should be pursued. Fair leaders managed to secure pledges of $1.3 million in start-up funds, primarily from Spokane businesses. Additionally, the Washington Legislature allocated nearly $12 million in state tax dollars to construct the Washington State Pavilion, which later became the Spokane Opera House and Convention Center.

The controversial business and occupation tax implemented by the Spokane City Council raised $5.7 million to remove the railroad tracks and prepare the fair site for Expo ’74. In October 1971, President Richard M. Nixon officially endorsed the event. With a delegation led by King Cole, Spokane received the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris’s unanimous approval as an official “special exposition.”

Washington’s influential Congressional delegation, including Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Sen. Warren Magnuson, and Rep. Thomas Foley, secured an $11.5 million appropriation to construct the U.S. Pavilion at Expo ’74. City officials successfully persuaded Spokane’s three railroads to relocate, with the Union Pacific, Milwaukee Road, and Burlington Northern donating 17 acres of land to the city for free through land deals worth millions of dollars that allowed them to consolidate their routes away from downtown

By Samantha Jones

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