Architect John K. Dow was born in Gaylord, Minnesota in 1862 and became one of the most influential architects in the city of Spokane, practicing for almost 50 years in the city. Reportedly he moved to Spokane in 1889 to take advantage of the many opportunities available in a town where much of the downtown had to be rebuilt following a disastrous fire of that same year. Within two months of the fire he had opened an office with fellow architect Loren L. Rand in the Crescent Block. While Dow’s formal architectural education/training is unknown, it is clear that he had a thorough knowledge of his craft and quickly the new firm began to receive many important commissions in the city.
Together the firm of Rand & Dow are credited with the designs the Tidball Block (1889), the first four-story building constructed after the downtown fire; the Bump Block/Carlyle Hotel (1890); and the Bennett Block (1890).
For reasons unknown Rand and Dow parted wasy after a couple of years. Polk Directories indicate that Dow had opened his own practice by 1892. His early designs include several buildings State Normal School (1895) in Cheney; the Burton Building (1899) in Colfax; the Lincoln County Courthouse (1897) in Davenport; and the Empire State Building (1900); the Spokane Club - Legion Building (1901); the Masonic Temple (1905 with L.L. Rand); and the Coolidge-Rising House (1906); all in Spokane.
In 1907, Dow promoted his long-time associate, Clarence Z. Hubbell, to the status of partner (1907-1910). Together they designed the Hutton Building (1907); Grace Baptist Church (1908) in Spokane; the Library, Assembly Hall and Heating Plant for Washington State College (1907) in Pullman; the August Paulsen Building (1908-11); and several structures for Eastern State Hospital (1906-07) in Medical Lake.
In 1910 Hubble left the firm and opened his own office and Dow continued designing on his own for the next 25+ years. Later projects include the Landsdowne House (1912); the August Paulsen House (1912); the Mohawk Building (1915); the Powell-Sanders Warehouse (1921) in Wenatchee; the McLeod Building (1915) in Edmonton, Canada; and alterations to the Marble Bank Building (1917) in Spokane.
In 1924 he went to work for Spokane architect G.A. Pehrson, but returned to private practice the following year. Dow's Art Deco design for Rogers School (1932, with William A. Wells), may have been one of his last projects. At the time he was 68 years old, but his skill as a delineator who took full command of his designs was clear.
In 1937, Dow retired and moved to the Seattle area. After many years of pursing his hobbies of golf and following baseball, Dow passed away in Kent, Washington in 1961; one year short of his 100th birthday.
While in Spokane, Dow was instrumental in the establishment of the Spokane Society of Architects, organized in 1899 and was elected the societies first secretary. He was also a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers.
By Michael Houser, State Architectural Historian - Feb 2012