Blair Business College
The Spokesman covered Blair Business College events. Greater Northwest Football Association has an online history of the school’s football program. The 1926 seal is from the Spokane Public Library yearbook collection.
Hugh C. Blair left Spokane Business College to found the rival Blair Business College in 1897. Within two years B.B.C. had reached an enrollment of 500 students. A 1915 ad noted, “Our sole business is training young men and women in the principles of business, so that they may be able to take their place in the world. . . prepared.” The college featured departments of Shorthand, Bookkeeping/ Business Methods, Penmanship, Typewriting and English. But it also had individual classes in spelling, arithmetic, letter writing, business law, and even Latin. To accommodate its students, B.B.C. offered evening classes as well as summer programs.
Blair Business College provided a college atmosphere for its students. The Quid Pro Quo Literary Society was formed in the first year. It, along with a college orchestra, provided regular entertainments for the school and community. The literary society soon became the Literary and Debating Society, providing teams for intercollegiate debates against Cheney Normal, Gonzaga, Whitman, and the University of Idaho. The school also offered activities such as skating parties, spelling and typing contests, alumni receptions and banquets, a Halloween party, and a lecture series.
Blair Business College operated successfully into the Great Depression. Then in October 1933, it became a part of Northwestern Business University, passing into history.
Bricks and Mortar
Blair Business College began in three rented rooms at the corner of First Avenue and Post Street in downtown Spokane. In 1902 Blair was able to move classes to the old Tull and Gibbs Furniture store, at the northeast corner of Sprague Avenue and Mill Street, B.B.C. occupied the second and third floors of the building, now renamed College Building. In 1906 Blair signed a ten-year lease for the top floor of the new Madison Hotel, located at the corner of First and Madison. This five-story brick structure had a frontage of 101 feet with a depth of 155 feet. The fifteen school rooms boasted fifteen-foot ceilings and natural light from four directions. The largest elevator in Spokane transported students to the top floor. There was a kitchen on the floor, so that students could host parties and banquets. The floor provided sufficient space for all school functions. There were also lockers all students and shower facilities for members of the sports teams.
That building still stands today as a part of the West Downtown Historic Transportation Corridor. Retail businesses occupy the ground floor with apartments above.
A 1909 image of the New Madison Hotel. “The Blair Business College, Spokane, Washington,” Spokane Public Library, accessed October 6, 2023, https://lange.spokanelibrary.org/items/show/5195.
Team Name: The Spokesman refers to teams as the Blairs
School Colors: Old Gold and Royal Purple
Blair began playing football in the fall of 1898. Great Northwest Football Association notes that Hugh C. Blair was aggressive in his use of the team as a marketing tool for the school. He also served as the business manager for the team. In its twelve years of existence, the Blairs played in only 42 games, with a 15-18-9 overall record. But Spokesman coverage shows the difficulties he encountered scheduling games. The first difficulty always involved the makeup of the team. The Blair team was made up of three groups of players: current students, past students, and area amateurs, so the game roster always had to be negotiated-- with weight and position also parts of the discussion. In addition to where a game would be played, there was a question of when it could be played. For example, Gonzaga preferred to play on Sunday, but Blair teams were not allowed to play on Sunday. Games were refused or cancelled when key players were unavailable. The GNFA website shows that B.B.C. lost twelve schedules games to cancellation.
Spokane High School was a frequent opponent since the two shared the Natatorium field as a home venue. Coeur d’Alene High School became a yearly opponent. The normal school at Cheney (now Eastern Washington) was an annual college-level opponent, though Blair occasionally tried Gonzaga and even the Agricultural School (now Washington State). The Spokane Athletic Club and the Y.M.C.A. also furnished teams on the schedule.
Two baseball and football standouts from 1908 teams were halfback Will Hillman (top) and quarterback Ralph Williams. Images from The Spokane Chronicle.