Downtown Pullman

Downtown Pullman - Then and Now
Posted on 07/23/2022
Dan Owens

In my last column I celebrated the history of Neill Public Library, which has now been a Pullman institution for over 100 years. For nearly all of that 100 years, Neill Public Library has also been a vital part of downtown Pullman, the dynamic and ever-changing heart of Pullman. Throughout its history, the library has been proud to be a part of the City of Pullman and especially proud to be a part of downtown.

In its first iteration, Neill Public Library was located in the Greystone building on College Hill, but quickly moved to the old City Hall which was located on the current library parking lot location (across from Porchlight Pizza). But then it hopped around over the years, all within our small downtown area. After moving out of its City Hall location, it was located on Grand Avenue in what is now the RTOP building. Later it was in its current location, but an older building that had previously been the home of Potlatch Lumber. At one point it was also located in the First National Bank building at the corner of Main & Kamiaken, now home to Design West Architects.

Many other local institutions made similar pilgrimages around downtown. In the 1910s, the Post office was located on Kamiaken Street (then Alder) in the building that now houses Noshies. Not long after, it moved right next door into a single story building where Hinrichs Trading Company offices are now located. In 1931 it moved right across Paradise Street to a new and much larger building, now home to Paradise Creek Brewery. There it remained for many years, later moving to its current home on South Grand Avenue.

Working at the library, I’ve heard many stories about downtown Pullman and strong statements on what can and can’t be done downtown. Looking at these historic photos is a lesson in how often things change, even when it feels like certain things have “always been this way”. And it’s fascinating to see how some of the same ideas come up over and over again, even as things are constantly changing.

For example, Main Street was a two-way street for many years. Nobody likes paying for parking, of course, so it’s fascinating to see a 1940s photo clearly showing coin-operated parking meters all the way down Main. Other photos show High Street going all the way through to Main (next to the Flatiron building, currently the High Street Plaza). I have my doubts about the safety of a High Street-Main Street-Grand Avenue intersection. On the other hand, we have photos that show pedestrians walking in all directions through that intersection at the same- which look much like the all-ways “pedestrian scramble” intersections you see in some communities today.

To celebrate downtown Pullman and 100 years of Neill Public Library, we’re working with the Downtown Pullman Association, WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, and many others to print dozens of these historic downtown photos. You’ll start to see some of these photos pop up in storefront windows around downtown very soon. A very special thanks to the Friends of Neill Public Library for funding this project.

As you might know, more changes are coming to downtown Pullman, and we’re really excited to see all the proposed projects on the “Project Downtown Pullman” webpage and in their very cool storybook, all of which you can find online. The Pullman City Council is currently scheduled to discuss many of these projects at their August 9th meeting at 7pm. Council meetings are always streamed live on Youtube, or you can watch the recording later at your convenience.

One last note- on the library’s most recent podcast, Downtown Pullman Association Executive Director Holly Greystone joined us to discuss a little bit about her own history on the Palouse and the many proposed projects and improvements for downtown Pullman. You can listen to the Neill Public Library podcast on the “News” page of our website, or search for “Neill Public Library” on any of your favorite podcast app or platform.

Dan Owens

Interim Library Director