April 21, 2024 11:04 pm
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 order to make Expo ’74 happen, Spokane implemented a controversial business and occupation tax that raised $5.7 million. This money was used 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 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 away from downtown, donating 17 acres of land to the city in exchange for this move being worth many millions of dollars. This allowed them to consolidate their routes away from downtown and pave the way for Expo ’74 to take place on a larger scale than previously thought possible.

Cole then focused on attracting countries to participate in the fair and managed to secure commitments from numerous nations, including the Soviet Union, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Iran, West Germany

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