Spokane’s Path to Success: How a Business Tax and World’s Fair Dream Transformed the City

50 years ago, Spokane’s downtown was reshaped by the World’s Fair

Spokane leaders sought advice from Seattle, who had previously hosted a fair in 1962, and were encouraged to pursue the idea of a world’s fair. In response to this advice, the Spokane City Council implemented an unpopular business and occupation tax which raised $5.7 million to tear out the railroad tracks. The tax was met with resistance from local businesses and residents, but it was ultimately successful in raising the funds needed to prepare the fair site.

In October 1971, President Richard M. Nixon officially sanctioned Expo ’74, and a Spokane delegation received the Bureau of International Expositions’ unanimous approval in Paris as an official “special exposition.” Washington’s Congressional delegation played a crucial role in securing funding for the U.S. Pavilion, including an $11.5 million appropriation to build it. Additionally, city officials successfully negotiated with Spokane’s three railroads to donate 17 acres of land valued at millions of dollars and relocate their routes away from downtown.

King Cole was tasked with attracting participants from around the world and was successful in securing commitments from countries such as the Soviet Union, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Iran, West Germany, and the Philippines. Corporate pavilions were also secured from companies like Ford

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