By Dan Webster … Courtesy of Spokesman Review
The Spokane Indians that lived for generations in and around the Little Spokane River Valley had little in common with the residents of today’s modern housing developments. That much is obvious. But both cultures do share one important quality: a sense of community. To the Spokanes, kinship was key. Life revolved around the nuclear family, which extended to immediate cousins. To those who live in suburban neighborhoods SIJCh as Blackhawk, which sits in North Spokane east of U.S. Route 395 and just north of Wandermere Golf Course, that kind of kinship is more loosely defined.
To residents such as Crissy White, though, it is no less meaningful. “Blackhawk is a pretty strong community,” says White, who has lived in the subdiVision for a dozen years with her husband Todd and their two children. “We’re very close.” White cites one major reason for that closeness.
“I think like many of the newer constructed neighborhoods, we were all built at pretty much the same time,” White says. “And we all had children who were young at the exact same time.” White, who works in sales and marketing for an area title company, was happy to have Blackhawk included in our roundup of Spokane area neighborhoods worth celebrating. The area is one small part of the overall development of North Spokane that began in earnest during the early 1980s; with the more recent improvements to U.S. 395 involving the North Spokane Corridor, that growth remains ongoing.
Despite the area’s changing face, though, some things remain the same. The definition of the term “neighborly,” for example. To White, neighborly action. is what happened recently when one of her neighbors incurred a traumatic brain injury. “While buttoning up her boat at Diamond Lake, she was hit by a tree,” White says. “And our neighborhood has rallied. It’s pretty priceless. It’s a story all by itself.”
This is not the first time the Blackhawk subdivision has been singled out. In February 2007, a group of neighbors nominated resident Paul Patrick and his wife Doris as part of the Spokesman-Review’s Good Neighbor series. Patrick’s nomination cited everything from his willingness to help remove downed trees and contribute to other cleanup activities to his wife sharing her homemade pies. “Paul embodies the neighborhood spirit,” one of Patrick’s fellow Blackhawk residents said. “He and Doris go above and beyond what normal neighbors would do.” As with the tribes who historically populated the valley, one of the main aspects of a neighborly spirit involves family. And it was a sense of family that appealed particularly to White, whose section of Blackhawk has more than its share of big households. “So there are a lot of kiddos,” White says: “Our cul-de-sac had, at one point, 28 kids.” Those children all had to be educated. And according to longtime Spokane realtor John Orr, no area school district is better than those available to students living in the Wandermere area.
The Mead School District boasts eight elementary schools, two middle schools and two well-regarded high schools: Mead and Mt. Spokane. “When you talk about Wandermere, and that area, the first thing that comes to mind – and I think this would be true of most of the Realtors in town – is the school district,” Orr says. “The Mead School District has such a positive reputation.” “We’ve had people come to town and say, “Well, I’ve talked to my girlfriend, and she said I should live in the Mead School District, ‘” Orr adds. “That’s the central feature.” But hardly the only one. Yes, Blackhawk is a standard neighborhood, with paved side-walks, driveways and cui-desacs such as White’s. And as she points out, her house doesn’t “sit on an oversized, acre-wide lot.” Yet the area does have a feel of nature. “It’s right off the Little Spokane, it’s near Wandermere Golf Course and there are tons of pine trees,” White says. In fact, the area is surrounded by trails designed and developed by the nonprofit group Friends of the Little Spokane River Valley for incorporation into the Spokane County Comprehensive Plan. And aside from the Little Spokane itself, nearby 14-acre Pine River County Park offers a sandy beach, BBQ facilities and a playground. Yet for all that natural feel, essential services from stores to restaurants to a 14-screen movie theater, are situated in shopping centers less than five minutes away by car. The golf course, which has been open since 1929, is even closer. “We’re close to Twigs (Bistro and Martini Bar}, Fred Meyer, Albertson’s and all that,” White says. Ultimately, though, the sense of comfort she feels comes down to the sense of community that living in Blackhawk provides, of being near people she considers more than mere neighbors. “The biggest base of our friends is in that neighborhood,” White says. “It’s a very big social area. We knew the
families that our kids were friends with.”
That familiarity is a throwback to the kind of life that past generations likely would have taken for granted. “I never set up play dates for my kids,” White says. “They figured it out. The community, it’s right there.”
Above: Spokesman-Review file photo.
The pond at Wandermere was frozen solid enough for ice skaters in January, 1940.