Louis Davenport’s Italian Gardens: The Talk of the Town

By Nostalgia Magazine Staff

Above, in 1922, Davenport’s Restaurant is remodeled, doubled in size, and re-opened as the Italian Gardens (Italian Renaissance architecture). Photo courtesy of the Davenport Hotel.

Long before the Davenport Hotel had been conceived, the unassuming entrepreneur, Louis Davenport, opened a restaurant in downtown Spokane, called simply, “Davenport’s Restaurant.” Opened in 1890, the eatery treated the pioneer town to gourmet food and vintage wine. The restaurant was so successful that it fed 5,000 people per day, doing $400,000 in business each year (about $11 million today). The Spokesman-Review ran a glowing appraisal:

“One of the requisites to life’s contentment, and which affords the greatest happiness, is to enjoy our daily repasts amid pleasant surroundings, together with an inviting cleanliness and a good service. This tempts the ruling need of our existence, and which should be followed by wholesome edibles.

“An establishment possessing those features has been a long felt want in this city, the supplying of which many futile attempts have been made by various caterers, but only until Thursday last was it shown that the proper idea had finally been grasped, and that by L. M. Davenport, who opened to the public for the first time a restaurant managed in accordance with this popular demand.
“This establishment is without doubt the most elaborate in finish, the best in general management and the most complete in equipment of any ever started in this city.”

In 1906, Davenport’s restaurant was proclaimed the “finest thing of the kind in the country” and Spokane lauded as “the model city of America” by Elbert Hubbard, respected editor of The Philistine.

Pictured here, the Mann Brothers Orchestra, in the Italian Gardens at the Davenport Hotel, circa 1935. Photo courtesy of Linda Rock.

The Thanksgiving advertisement for the Davenport Hotel above is from 1929, and it mentions Dave Lindgren’s orchestra. Mr. Lindgren can be seen in the back row, center, in the Mann Brothers photo above.

As the restaurant grew in success and in favor with the residents of Spokane, her visitors, and the entire country, Louis Davenport decided to build upon his laurels – quite literally. As an empire rose around it, Davenport’s Restaurant became a piece of the celebrated Davenport Hotel.
After more than a third of a century of serving fine cuisine, the time came for a new look. A remodeling project in the early 1920s doubled the restaurant’s seating capacity, and completely transformed the architectural and decorative treatment of the room. In the opinion of the Spokesman-Review in 1922, local architect Kirtland Cutter was “peculiarly successful in retaining that inviting charm of atmosphere which has long characterized the Main Restaurant.”

The Italian Renaissance dominated the architecture of the new room, which was supported structurally and artistically by two long rows of columns. At the entrance, guests were met by two additional columns, these of crystal, filled with colorful fish. Plants, flowers, and a lighted fountain surrounded the columns. Additional flora graced columns and pedestals throughout the room, illuminated in such a way as to give the impression of “myriads of glowing fairy lights,” according to one description.

Mirror panels on the walls reflected the soft grays and subdued blues, reds, and greens of the color scheme. They also reflected the graceful moves of many a gentleman who called his lady out onto the dance floor. Nearly every day, the specially constructed floor hosted dinner dancing and after-theater dancing to the music of a live orchestra. This renovated restaurant became known as The Italian Gardens, and it was indeed, the talk of the town.

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