Nestled along the banks of the Spokane river, just to the east of downtown Spokane, lies the historic liberal arts college of Gonzaga University. Well known for its Men’s Basketball team, Gonzaga is a thriving Roman Catholic University that was established in 1887. At that time, Gonzaga enrollment totaled a mere 7 students, a far cry from the over 7,500 students currently in attendance.
History of Gonzaga
Gonzaga was founded by Father Joseph Cataldo and was originally intended to be a school for local tribes and settler families. Cataldo purchased the initial 30 acres of land for the university from the Northern Railroad for $936. The university is named after 16th century Italian Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, and the iconic twin-spire St. Aloysius Church on campus echoes this dedication. The St. Aloysius Church itself was built in 1911 and serves as the center for religious life on campus to this day.
Growth of Gonzaga
Gonzaga University has seen a slow and steady growth since its opening, save for tough times during the Great Depression and World War II. Famous singer Bing Crosby attended Gonzaga in the early 1920s, having grown up in a house on Sharp Ave. His childhood home serves as a museum of his accomplishments and is currently part of the university.
In 1948, Gonzaga welcomed its first female students, officially becoming a coed campus. NBA legend John Stockton attended Gonzaga in the early 1980s and led the 1984 West Coast Athletic Conference in scoring, assists and steals. By the late 1990s, the university had gained notoriety for its Men’s Basketball Team, who have made consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament ever since. As a result of the booming popularity of Gonzaga Basketball, the MacCarthey Athletic Center was constructed opened in 2004, a modern facility with 6,000 seats. Home games routinely sell out and occasional concerts are held at the center as well.
Jundt Art Museum
The Jundt Art Museum opened in 1995, showcasing both student and professional works of art. It is free to the public and a wonderful cultural resource for Spokane. Currently, Judnt features works by Auguste Rodin, Dale Chuhily and Harold Balazs to name a few. It over looks Lake Arthur, a great place for students needing a break from their studies. Running along the south border of the university is the Spokane Centennial Trail, a 40-mile recreation trail stretching from Nine Mile Falls to the Idaho border. Next to the Jundt Art Museum, the Myrtle Woldson Center for the Performing Arts offers music and dance performances by a wide range of performers in an impressive modern facility. Serving as a gathering space and hub of student life, the John J. Hemmingson Center features lounges, a cafeteria, Starbucks and a marketplace.
Just east of campus lies the popular University District, featuring coffee shops, restaurants, thrift shops and a handful of pubs. Lots of students head over to Arctos Coffee Roasters for a caffeinated study session. Arctos roasters their own coffee on site and has a full espresso bar, cold brew and drip coffee options. For some infamous maple bars, head to Donut Parade on North Hamilton Street. This donut shop has been in operation since 1968 and is a Spokane landmark.
Restaurants Near Gonzaga
If you’re looking for fine dining, look no further than Clover restaurant, an extremely popular new American restaurant frequented by students and Spokanites alike. For something less formal, Wolfie’s Diner offers freshly made burgers in a small, 50’s style shop with retro décor. For the best Taco Tuesday in the area, head to DeLeon’s Taco and Bar and order their Mahi Mahi or Holy Skirt Steak Tacos. They are well-known for their house made corn tortillas so be sure to give them a try.
No-Li Brewhouse resides not far from campus and is the place to go for local craft beer. In warmer months they have a patio overlooking the Spokane River and are legendary on the Spokane brewery scene. They reside inside of the Riverwalk, home to Thai Bamboo, Dry Fly Distillery and Craft Hair Studio. Just north of the Riverwalk lies the Iron Bridge, a lattice truss former railroad bridge that has been converted for pedestrian use. For some top-notch thrifting, head to Global Neighborhood Thrift or the Arc of Spokane, both are proximal to Gonzaga and offer a wide range of goods, from furniture to name brand clothing.
You’ll find that there’s always something interesting to check out in the University District or on Gonzaga’s campus itself. Its proximity to downtown means that it’s a quick 10-minute walk down the Centennial Trail to reach Riverfront Park and just a hop further to downtown proper. A little further out, you’ll find impressive hiking resources like Riverside State Park and Iller Creek Conservation area. Gonzaga University is nestled into an ideal location in the Lilac City and offers an abundance of options for activities both near and far.