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. 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.

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.” The city council implemented a controversial business and occupation tax that raised $5.7 million to remove the railroad tracks and prepare the fair site for Expo ’74.

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

By Riley Johnson

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