Central Cheney Historic District
The Central Cheney Historic District, listed on both the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places, was established in 2001.
The District is located between the campus of Eastern Washington University to the northwest, and the former Northern Pacific railroad tracks to the southeast. This is where the initial town grew up, geographically located between the two forces that largely defined the early development of Cheney.
The Central Cheney Historic District is unusual in that it consists of a wide variety of property types, including residential, educational, religious, commercial, and industrial properties. The predominant style of the commercial properties is vernacular brick commercial. Most of the residential properties are representative of eclectic American vernacular architecture, with elements borrowed from the Victorian and Arts and Crafts elements styles.
Some more distinctive architectural styles are represented in the district, including Mission, Collegiate Gothic, Art Deco, International, and Romanesque.
A defining characteristic of the District is the wide range of economic levels represented by the various properties. This is indicative of the way that Cheney developed. Most businesses located along the major First street axis, with cobblers and candy stores sharing the street with bankers and doctors. Likewise, in the residential areas to the northwest of the commercial center, the houses belonged to those from all walks of life. No enclave for the wealthy ever developed, and neither were the homes of the working class relegated to the fringes of town. Simple front-gabled cottages were built within sight of two-story houses with Victorian porches.
The nearby presence of the college, built on the hill overlooking the downtown, also added to the egalitarian nature of the district. Off-campus housing for the students, as well as for the teachers, had to be modest enough to be affordable.
By 1950, the nature of the district had changed. Much of the regional economic wealth had shifted to other areas. Fewer of the town's influential people lived in large houses in the center of town. The economy had begun to shift, placing more emphasis on the College and its rapidly-growing population of students than on farmers and railroad visitors. During the subsequent years, many houses were modified for the lucrative practice of rental to students.
Many homes in the district suffered due to the increase of long-distance ownership and the tendency to use only expedient methods to protect and extend the life of the structure. Additionally, older homes were often demolished to make room for the more valuable multiple-unit apartment.
Still, the history of Cheney is told in her buildings. We invite you to download our walking tour brochure, and share with us the heritage of education, rail and agriculture that has contributed to Cheney's heritage.