In the late 1880s Spokane was in a period of rapid growth. Investors in real estate
began to buy up large pieces of property, and then would divide the land it into
home sites. Prices of these home lots were much higher in scenic areas, or when
enhanced by a neighborhood park. In some cases, a planned neighborhood that
was far from the city, would also need to supply a convenient way for people to
get to their new homes.
In early 1888 news of a cable car line, like those used in San Francisco began to
surface. The City of Spokane itself, was then primarily located on the south side of
the river, and land north of the river was still in the early stages of development.
Soon it was announced that a new company called the Spokane Cable Railway
would be building the new line. Most investors and management were also land
holders of properties along the way, as well as the final destination. The cable car
route would begin downtown on Monroe Street and cross the river on a new
wooden bridge, where at Boone Avenue it would head west to the Spokane River.
There a beautiful new park was to be built. From there another new bridge over
the Spokane River was to be erected leading to a new housing development to be
known as Twickenham.
The Twickenham addition was platted in 1889 by surveyors Byron Riblet and John
Strack, who are also buried here at Fairmount, and were honored at a monument
dedication last year. Although the new Twickenham addition was beautifully
platted, sales of home lots failed, and the hope of it becoming a huge financial
success never happened. The Spokane Cable Railway Company too experienced
its share of difficulties, and its history was brief. However, the park built at
Twickenham did become a popular destination. Baseball was becoming the
national pastime and the new Twickenham Park included a baseball field and
grand stands. Other kinds of entertainment were added, including food, concerts
and dancing. Soon animal exhibits and even a hotel and casino were constructed.
In 1893 a new attraction was added that would not only be a great addition to the
park, but would ultimately lead to a name change for the park itself. The
Twickenham Park Natatorium and Athletic Grounds opened in the summer of
1893, featuring a newly constructed swimming pool, the only heated bath house
in the state at the time. Evan Morgan, Ernest Eggert and John K. Waite are the
men responsible for that. Their partnership at the park was short-lived, and only
Evan Morgan remained in the area. A few years after his time at the park Mr.
Morgan moved to Loon Lake and Morgan Park at the lakes north end is named
By 1895 the Washington Water Power Company, who had been purchasing
controlling interest in several of the street railways, had also taken over the old
Spokane Cable Railway line. By then the cable cars had been replaced by electric
trolleys cars. The power company took control of Twickenham Park as well, and
that year the parks name was officially changed to Natatorium Park. It's
interesting to note that some of the men involved in the Spokane Cable Railway
and The Twickenham Addition were also involved in the Washington Water Power
From 1895 to 1906 the power company ran the park. With the automobile
industry still in its infancy the trolley cars were the way people got around, and
what could be better than packing a picnic lunch and taking a trolley ride to the
beautiful grounds of Natatorium Park. The power company was determined to
keep prices low at the park. One can just imagine how much money the trolley
lines were bringing in. Trolley cars full of people would flock to the park especially
on the weekends and holidays, each person dropping their coins into the trolley
In 1907 the Washington Water Power Company leased the park to a man named
Audley Ingersoll whose father was involved in the amusement park business in
the east. His plan was to turn the park into a place similar to New York's Coney
Island. Many new attractions were added during his two year run but by the end
of 1908 Mr. Ingersoll was heavily in debt, and the power company became the
beneficiary of his efforts.
Finding itself now in control of a real amusement park, Washington Water Power
pushed ahead, adding even more attractions to the park. In 1909 Charles Looff
presented to the park, a beautiful carrousel that had been built under contract
with the former manager Audley Ingersoll. The power company wouldn't pay the
asking price for the carrousel, but an agreement was reached. Louis Vogel, Mr.
Looff's son in law was brought in to manage the concessions at the park and
would be paid a percentage of proceeds from the rides. The park remained a huge
attraction for Spokane residents, but times were changing for the trolley lines.
The automobile was here to stay and a change on how the park was funded was
on the way. A person would now pay for tickets to enjoy the rides. Though the
park was still extremely popular, by the late 1920s the power company was
looking for a way to get out of the amusement park business.
As it turns out Louis Vogel, who had been working at the park since 1909 was able
to purchase the entire site in 1929. Later that year came the stock market crash,
leading to the great depression of the 1930s. Prior to his time at Natatorium Park
Mr. Vogel had been a banker, and his financial experience now helped him lead
the park through the crisis. In fact, some new rides were installed and
improvements were accomplished during this time. Even though money was
scarce, people still looked to Natatorium Park as an affordable escape.
By the late 1930s the park was back in full swing. The big band era was at its peak,
and many of the most famous bands in the country were performing for the
dancing crowds. With war looming in Europe, it wasn't long before the United
States was pulled into the conflict. The 1940s brought in World War 2 and as a
result the country was unified. After the failure of the proposed Twickenham
addition back in the 1890s the property had become the site of Fort George
Wright. Now with the advent of the war, the complex became a center of military
activity, and Natatorium Park was there when the soldiers needed a break from
the stress of what lied ahead. The park was flying high through the 1940s and into
Louis Vogel died in 1952 and responsibility for the park passed on to his son Lloyd.
Lloyd had plenty of experience at the job, as he had been managing the park for
his father since the early 1940s The 1950s though brought new challenges to the
park. Drive in theaters were opening around the area, Cars were more
dependable, families were going on longer trips. More lake cabins, more boats,
more everything! The opening of the Spokane Coliseum in late 1954 was also a
factor. Now the big name acts who came to Spokane performed there instead of
Natatorium Park. With less revenue new attractions couldn't be installed and the
park struggled to stay afloat.
By the early 1960s the park was in financial trouble. The Spokane Parks Board
considered purchasing the site, but due to a lack of funds it never happened.
Lloyd was forced to sell the park in 1962. The new owners the El Katif Shrine took
over the park and kept it open it from 1964 to 1967 but, in 1968 the park was
dismantled to make way for the San Souci mobile home park.