After operating for nearly 70 years as a functional steam plant, it became clear that it was no longer economically feasible to supply steam heat throughout downtown Spokane. As a result, Washington Water Power made the tough decision to close the steam plant. The last boiler was shut down in December of 1986.
In the summer of 1996, the Central Steam Plant’s future became nearly as interesting as its history. It began when WWP formed Steam Plant Square, LLC—and assembled a bold visionary team that included a Spokane design-build firm specializing in historic renovations. By virtue of creative architectural design and carefully selected demolition, the old plant has now been transformed from a dirty, drab industrial behemoth into a cathedral-bright architectural showcase—no longer mothballed but alive with people and commerce.
This transformation was no simple undertaking. Detailed plans were painstakingly devised to provide for attractive, functional commercial space while maintaining as much history and equipment as possible—and to complete the work within the rigid guidelines of historic renovation.
Though the structure had been vacant for ten years, tax credits, an innovative partnership, and the city’s historic preservation department helped get the development off the ground. Rather than gut the building, the development team used its unique infrastructure in the renovation, saving as much of the original machinery as possible. The four massive steam boilers have been converted into restaurant seating and a waterfall/ wishing well. The 1,200-ton coal bunker has become high-tech office space suspended from the ceiling. One of the stacks is a visitor attraction, while the other stack houses a conference room in one of the office spaces.
The Central Steam Plant building has always been a prominent and readily identifiable Spokane landmark. Its most outstanding features – the characteristic smokestacks and high arched windows – have graced the Spokane skyline since 1916. These proud beacons will remain on the cityscape, preserved in all their historical grandeur. But it’s what’s inside, beneath the stacks, that really counts.
Interiors of the restaurant and pub formerly known as the Steam Plant Grill were completed recently, and there are new names for the restaurant, microbrewery and pub housed in the historic complex. The Steam Plant, recognizable by its signature twin stacks soaring above downtown Spokane, created and supplied heat to some 300 buildings in downtown Spokane from 1916 to 1986.
It was renovated starting in 1998 to turn the former industrial building into unusual dining and office space, where many of the building’s historic features were preserved. The original renovation, by partners Wells and Co. and Steam Plant Square, was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In January, Steam Plant Square, a subsidiary of Avista Corp., took over majority ownership of the restaurant and pub.
The full-service restaurant is now known as Stacks at Steam Plant and is led by chef Barry Matthews, who is exercising some new culinary freedom over the offerings. The menu features regional and local ingredients, as well as meats, fish, cheese and vegetables smoked on-site using a variety of fruit and hardwoods. Beer brewed by the Steam Plant Brewing Co. is also a featured ingredient.
Formerly owned by Avista Corps, the Steam Plant venue, with its iconic twin stacks lending a uniqueness to the Spokane skyline, last year sold to local real estate developer Jerry Dicker. Owner of numerous other downtown properties, including the historic Bing Crosby Theater, Dicker brought the Steam Plant’s recently refurbished (as of 2018, after a $4 million renovation of the entire facility) restaurant back online in November 2021.
Another change at the Steam Plant, both on the operational and menu side, is a new partnership with Grain Shed Brewing, which is utilizing an attached brewery space formerly home to Steam Plant Brewery. Accordingly, the partnership means several of the restaurant’s tap handles are reserved for Grain Shed’s beers made with regionally sourced ingredients.
We have partnered with the The Grain Shed to craft unique brewed drinks. Our selection features many different breweries, styles, and seasonal offerings, with an emphasis on local breweries. We take pride in locally sourcing our brews.