Historic Palouse building wall crumbles

November 21st, 2015 by —

A historic Palouse building – the Palouse Arms (formerly Swartz House) in the City of Palouse had the west wall crumble to the ground Nov. 15 at about noon. The fire alarm went off and many thought it was the “noon whistle” until it continued to ring.

Historic Palouse building

The Palouse Arms building, next to the post office in Palouse, WA, had a wall collapse at about noon Nov. 15, 2015. – Shelly Anderson photo

Concerns about this building was raised a few weeks ago at city council and the building was condemned. Helene Hopkins, who managed the building for years, removed the tenants about a year ago because the engineer she had look at the building could not give it a thumbs up. No one was injured in the collapse.

Garfield resident, Rich Gallegos was walking with his son out of the grocery store across from the Palouse Arms just when the bricks fell. “The lady who exited with us turned to me and asked, ‘Did I just see that?'” Gallegos said. “Yes, yes you did. Thankfully the wind dispelled the huge cloud of dust quickly. Oddly enough, it sounded like a muffled bag of Legos being dumped out, pretty anti-climatic for such a major occurrence.”

Palouse resident Helene Hopkins managed the apartment building through her business “Helene’s Property Place” in Pullman. She said she thought the building was not safe and when she had an engineer from WSU look at the building he could not say the building was unsafe but did not give it a green light either. Hopkins decided to play it on the safe side and evicted all the tenants. That was a year or two ago and it remain empty until the owner sold the property to Leonerd Koepke of Moscow, who said it was sold with a “silent bidding” process and he ended up being the only bidder.

The current owner of the building is planning to repair the building with plans to have it fixed and ready to rent spaces or apartments at the first of the year. He is currently waiting for his insurance to do their inspections and to find if he will have a claim for the damage which, he said, it is hoped will be only a couple of weeks.

“What fell,” Koepke said, “is not part of the original building. This strip on the building which is about 20’x80′, was built on at a later time. The original building has no damage and is structurally sound.”

Watch for further updates on this as time progresses.


The building wall that collapsed Nov. 15 (see above related story) was originally built and called the Swartz House in the early 1900s:

From Robert West’s book:

Historic Palouse building

Historic Palouse building – This is the Swartz house in “better times” – early 1900s. The top portion of the building was removed years ago leaving the bottom which became the Palouse Arms apartments, Palouse, Washington.

A.J. “Cap” Swartz arrived in this area in the 1880s, homesteading and prospecting on the Meadow Creek in the Upper Palouse Valley. In 1890 he sold his homestead, moved to Palouse and built The Swartz House, described as an “admirably conducted hostelry with 50 rooms that are well furnished and kept in the best of order”. It also boasted of having a fine dining room and a well-kept bar. This hotel became the headquarters for the mining interests in the Hoodoo Mountains in Idaho where miners, prospectors and financiers bought, sold, traded and financed mines. The hotel did not survive the Panic of 1893 and was closed for several years. In 1906 George Lamphere and W.R. Belvail (Jane Flansburg’s father) purchased the building and remodeled it. It was renamed The Northern Hotel and later The Commercial Hotel.

In 1930 the second floor was the Lamphere Apartments and the ground floor had been partitioned into several store spaces.

The building that had been next to this (historic Palouse building) fell without warning in 1973. Bob West wrote: One morning in June of 1973 I was crossing the street to the Sweet Shop (located in the museum building) for a cup of coffee. About halfway across I heard a very loud rumbling sound. I looked up the street and saw a large cloud of dust. Were we having an earthquake? Being curious, I ran up the street in time to see the last wall of this old building come tumbling down. Old age, not a quake, was the cause of this collapse. The lot was purchased and cleaned up by Bagott Motors and is now the location of their used car lot.