Mount Spokane is a park that has a long history with Native American, as well as European American peoples in the Spokane area. The park’s development was first pursued privately, then by county and state park departments in succession.
Much of the initial development was sponsored by Francis H. Cook, a wealthy local newspaper man and real estate developer. Cook acquired property throughout the present-day state park, including the summit, and in 1909 he began construction of a road to a site on the mountain he called Paradise Camp. When it was completed, Cook allowed locals to use the road to access the mountain for a small entrance fee. In 1912, Cook gave the mountain, which had been known as Mount Carleton and locally as Old Baldy, its current name of Mount Spokane.
In 1933, the iconic Vista House at the mountain’s summit was constructed by private contractors. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was established in the park in June, 1934. The camp, known as Camp Francis Cook, was located on Beauty Mountain and housed 200 young CCC enrollees at a time. Due to harsh winter conditions, the camp was only operated six months of the year. CCC enrollees built roads, trails and picnic areas throughout the park that continue to be used today. The camp was disbanded in 1940.
By the 1930s, skiing had emerged as a popular sport at the park. Cabins, rope tows and jumps were built by local clubs on the west and south sides of the mountain. Local ski groups including the Spokane Ski Club and the Selkirk Ski Club advocated for the construction of infrastructure and facilities including a grand lodge that was completed in 1940. The lodge was short-lived as an electrical fire caused it to burn to the ground in 1952. In 1946, Mount Spokane was home to the world’s first double chair life. Constructed by the Riblet Tramway Company of Spokane, the lift was actually a converted ore bucket mining tram. It was only in service for three seasons and was eventually replaced by the current Chair #1 in 1956. At the time, Chair #1 had the longest vertical rise of any lift in the northwest. Skiing continues to be one of the most popular recreational activities in the park.