The inclusion of racially restrictive covenants in property documents was widespread in Spokane. These covenants include a clause that reads something similar to: “No person of any race other than the White or Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with the owner or tenant.” In my last blog post I mentioned three specific additions that still have racially restrictive covenants on the books today. They were Comstock Park Second Addition, High Drive First Addition, and High Drive Second Addition all of which fall within the Comstock Neighborhood. At that stage in my research, it appeared that the covenants were an isolated phenomenon on the South Hill. I could not have been more wrong.
In the past few days I have uncovered thirty-seven more racially restrictive covenants that are still on the books in Spokane County. With the help of friend and archivist, Anna Harbine, we created a map to show just how pervasive this practice was in Spokane. In the process of mapping we discovered that there are racially restrictive covenants on the South Hill, Audobon neighborhood, Shadle Park, Spokane Valley, the “Y”, and northeast Spokane. Take a look at the map below and check if your addition still has these covenants on the books. After you click on an individual covenant area you can navigate to the covenant document itself.
I still have four more covenant areas to map and unfortunately, I think there are still a number of racially restrictive covenants that I have not yet found. I will continue to add these additions to the map as I find them, with the gracious help of another friend, Matt Wright.
Now that we know where most of the covenants are, we can start working on a plan to get them removed or amended. Would you support removing these covenants in your addition?
I getting my Master’s in Social Work at EWU right now, and writing a policy paper on housing /racial discrimination. I have cited your work in my paper. I am wondering if you have done any further work on this or if there are others who are working to get the racial wording removed. A professor at Gonzaga School of Law said their students may be interested in helping with this process.
I have heard that the Center for Justice was working on this w director Rick Eiscthat ,(spelling of his last name is incorrect) who has recently left the group but also teaches at GU Law Center for Law and Justice (University Legal Assistance) & directs the Environmental Law Clinic. There may be others at the Center for Justice in the Community Building who may also be working on this. I suggest you contact them. Even though these covernets exist on the Books, they are no longer enforceable.. Perhaps this is also a project for the City Council. Good luck.
Several years ago I interviewed Bill First, Tom Foley’s PR person., for the public library archive. He informed me about the covenet, I guess about 20 years ago. I was very surprised.
Thank you so much for your comment. I have actually read the transcript for the oral history you mentioned with Bill First. I have a copy of it in my files. That was the first time in my research that I had come across evidence that Jewish people were impacted by racially restrictive covenants in Spokane. I have been meaning to dig further on this thread and maybe your comment will be the inspiration to do so. Thank you for collecting that important oral history.
Sorry to be slow in getting back to your comment. We have been working with Rick Eichstaedt and the Gonzaga Environmental Law and Land Use Clinic to take the next step toward removal of racially restrictive covenants in Spokane. In fact, we have our first trial case currently before Spokane County Superior Court. I will write a blog post soon to give an update on the status of the project. Thank you for your interest, and feel free to email me if you would like to discuss the project further: alocalhistorian[at]gmail.com
I live near 31st and Tekoa and believe I saw some historical racially restrictive language in my mortgage documents a few years ago.
Thank you for your comment. I would be happy to confirm whether or not your home has a racially restrictive covenant that is still on the books. You can reach me by email alocalhistorian[at]gmail.com.
Have you come across any restrictive covenants that list specific nationalities or races?
Not in Spokane, but I have seen restrictive covenant language that identified specific races in Seattle.
In the late 70’s my Dad sold real estate here in Spokane. I remember he walked a neighborhood in North Spokane (maybe Fairwood or Brentwood) with his clients, a black couple, who wanted to buy a house in the development. They knocked on every door in the development to gather signatures to make sure that this black couple could purchase the house. There was a silent, unwritten covenant at that time in the development.
How belittling for his clients. And how damn honorable of my Dad.
Interesting story, thank you for sharing! I will send you a private email to see if you have any more to share about this.
Is Karen serious?! Yeah your dad is real honorable getting those signatures so he can make a sale!!
Don’t think about the two humans that are being treated like ex cons getting released from Alcatraz. Ridiculous Karen!!
So, you’d rather my Dad not help the couple buy the home they wanted?
Hello. A co-worker showed me the map after he told me about these covenants. He lives in an area that is surrounded by ‘restricted’ areas. He is also of African descent. Have there been any further updates on having the offensive terms removed from the ‘books’? I cannot believe that in 2020 there are still racially insensitive documents that exist in our government. It just boggles my mind.