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University Historic District Walking Tour, Eastern Washington University
Item 2 of 20
It took four years of lobbying and community activism before a new Normal School could rise from the ashes of the first building. It opened in the Fall of 1896, and served the community for just 16 years. This ghost building was beloved by its students and teachers.

  • The new Cheney Normal School
  • The rear view of the building
  • The Cheney Normal School the day after the 1912 fire.
  • Dignitaries and residents are welcomed at the foot of Normal Ave [College Ave] on October 15, 1895.
  • Basement floor plan
  • Ground/first floor plan
  • Second floor plan
  • Attic floor plan
  • Normal School drawing class
  • Normal School office

After the Normal School building, the former Benjamin P. Cheney Academy, burned to the ground in August 1891, the community rallied to deal with the disaster. First, they found space for temporary classes in time to open the fall quarter with a delay of just one week. They also sent a delegation to the legislature in Olympia to secure funding to rebuild.

In 1893, the legislature passed a funding bill for a new building. Back home there was a celebration in honor of the work done by Daniel Percival, Stephen Grubb, and William Sutton. But just two weeks later, Governor McGraw vetoed the appropriation bill.

Cheneyites were not deterred, they voted to tax themselves to build a new public school that could be used by the Normal School (read more about this story). Meanwhile, they redoubled their lobbying efforts in Olympia and through the press. Two years later, in 1895, funding for a new building was approved.

The cornerstone for the new building was laid on October 15, 1895 during a grand ceremony attended by many dignitaries. The new Normal School opened for classes in October 1896.

The brick clad, wooden structure had a granite foundation and front entry that had been quarried from Medical Lake. The building was furnished with all the most modern equipment. In additional to classrooms and laboratories, it had a large library on the first floor. The men's and women's restrooms were also on the first floor. The tower held living quarters for a few of the teachers.

At the back of the building, attached by a corridor, was a circular gymnasium on the ground floor. The second story of the addition held a 750 seat auditorium.

In a second disaster for the school, late in the evening of April 24, 1912, fire tore through the school, trapping two teachers, Mr. Wert and Mr. Miranda, in their third floor tower room. Firemen pulled a carpet from a nearby home and yelled for the men to jump. Mr. Wert was safely caught by the men, however, billowing smoke obscured the firemen's view and they were unprepared as Mr. Miranda jumped. He was badly injured, but made a slow recovery.

Senior Normal School student, Harry Lindahl described the scene this way

One morning when I came to school, I found it in ruins, burned to the ground. When I came to school that morning and saw the smoke rising up and small flickers of flame with the firemen still playing their hoses on it, I thought - no school today. But I was to be disappointed, because [President] N.D. Showalter had organized ….they had classes in homes, classes in churches, and in the Cheney school - so school went on as usual.
All of the records were burned in the fire, but they had a wonderful person in teacher, Ceylon Kingston who remembered the names of the graduates and their grades. I know from personal experience that he had all my grades exactly right.
I had the honor of graduating in the Methodist Church. No other class can say that.

1896 Normal School brochure. J. Orin Oliphant; History of the State Norma School; 1924. 

Cecil Dryden; Light for an Empire — The history of Eastern Washington State College; 1964.

Oral history interview with Harry Lindahl; 1975

The Southwest Spokane County Historical Society photograph collection