Then and Now: Associated General Contractors building

The Associated General Contractors of America formed in 1918 to represent commercial contractors who build everything from schools and office buildings to roads and bridges. In 1919, Spokane builders started their own chapter, which was officially chartered in April 1921.

For almost 100 years, the Inland Northwest AGC, a nonprofit trade association, has advocated on behalf of builders, subcontractors and industry service providers. For many years, the group had offices in the old Spokane Hotel at Sprague Avenue and Washington Street.

In 1958, the group built their own office building at 4935 E. Trent Ave. It was a modest building, with just a lounge, conference rooms, three offices and a catering kitchen.

The small building is an example of midcentury modern architecture from the firm of Royal McClure and Tom Adkison, who graduated in the same class at the University of Washington and practiced together in Spokane from 1947 to 1967.

The style, now called midcentury modern, which has been called harsh and sterile by some and elegant and sophisticated by others, was championed by a handful of Spokane architects, including Bruce Walker, Kenneth Brooks and John McGough, among others.

After McClure struck out on his own and moved to Seattle, Adkison was made the executive architect for Expo ’74, which encompassed the massive redevelopment of the downtown and riverfront area.

Hundreds of midcentury modern examples are catalogued at midcenturyspokane.org, a 2016 project of the Spokane City/County Historic Preservation Office and Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission.

The AGC building was redesigned and renovated in 2002. The firm of Bernardo|Wills Architects expanded the building, matched the original concrete façade and added an atrium. Many of the AGC membership, which includes the region’s largest commercial contractors, donated their skilled tradesmen to complete the building.

Among the services AGC provides is specialty training in the fields of job site safety, leadership, certifications and skilled trades. Safety is probably the most important, said Cheryl Stewart, executive director of the local chapter. “We want all of our members to go home safely every day,” she said.

As the centennial of the Inland Northwest chapter approaches in 2021, the AGC staff has been collecting historical photos and memorabilia of the past century of commercial construction.

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