Spokane Memories: Broadview Dairy

  • By Sharon De Mills-Wood
  • Posted 1/04/2024
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 22849
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In this original essay, Spokane historian Sharon De Mills-Wood writes about the Broadview Dairy, a turn-of-the-century business that grew along with the burgeoning city, first delivering milk in horse-drawn wagons before switching to trucks in the 1920s. Spokane residents of a certain age retain fond memories the milkmen who made deliveries, "the friendly faces who knew customers by name, exchangers of advice and gossip, friends of children and dogs." Broadview Dairy changed hands several times after World War II, but its 1910 building still stands at 411 W Cataldo in Spokane's Riverside neighborhood.

Cows and Horses

It isn’t often in the Northwest that we find a merger of history involving agriculture, commerce, the successes and failures of economics, and a surviving industry that all span the life of a building. Such is true of the Broadview Dairy building. 

The Broadview Dairy was one of several commercial dairy operations established in the Spokane area around 1900. Broadview Farms, later the Broadview Dairy Company of Spokane, was established in Marshall in 1893 by Allen Henry Flood with his sons Frank and Edmund. They built up a dairy herd gradually beginning at Marshall, which is on the old Northern Pacific Railroad line approximately 8 miles southwest of Spokane. 

As Spokane grew, residential development left less room for dairy herds, and Broadview Farms moved farther south to Rosalia, where it had more than 500 acres of grazing land for its herd of 200 cows in 1909 and was said to be the largest dairy ranch west of the Rocky Mountains. The barns and facilities were modern and extensive, and continued in use until 1917, when the practice of purchasing milk from dairy farmers became prevalent. The herd was gradually sold to dairy farmers who shipped milk to Broadview Dairy in Spokane.

The processing and distribution side of the business grew along with the development of Spokane. The straining, cooling, filling of cans and bottles for distribution, and loading of delivery wagons took place at various locations in the city. In 1910, the Floods completed the large modern brick building at Washington and Cataldo. The building cost $35,000 to construct. The brick and rubble rock building had power and lights, electrical heat, steam, and city water. It was built in two different sections. Section one housed the horse stalls, hay storage, and wagons. The basement was used for horse stalls. The first floor was for wagon storage. The second floor was the storage area for hay. The second section was the creamery and ice cream facility, which occupied the first and second floors. The pasteurizing room was also located on the first floor. Overall storage took up most of the room on the third floor. 

The Floods advocated for better health and safety in dairy production. They led the initiative in the Northwest of testing cattle for disease, bacterial testing of raw milk and finished milk products, and the pasteurization of milk. Their commercial dairy was the first in the state to test for tuberculosis to protect the health of consumers.

The dairy began with two small horse-drawn wagons serving stores and restaurants and expanded to serve residential areas. The dairy grew and at one time had a nearby stable of 65 horses; they were cheaper and better for delivering milk because horses could be trained to walk the driverless wagon down the block while a milkman ran from door to door. Horses also knew the routes and how long each stop should take. If the milkman got delayed talking to a customer, the horse would just take off for the next stop. If there was a string of houses on a block, the milkman could hop off with his bottle carrier and the horse would continue on and wait for him at the end of the block.

Fond Memories of the Milkmen

In the late 1920s, delivery changed to trucks as growing ice cream sales to outlying areas made speed essential. Delivery by traditional milkmen – the friendly faces who knew customers by name, exchangers of advice and gossip, friends of children and dogs –diminished over the years, victim of changing economics and social habits. Fond memories, however, of milkmen in days gone by, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, evoke recollections such as remembering the glass milk bottles, the insulated dairy boxes milkmen left on the doorstep, and the inch of cream that rose to the top of the bottle if the milk sat too long, which was a real treat for some.

Milkmen in the day knew their jobs could involve much more than just delivering milk. Approaching the American home every other day via the back door, they found handy such things a diplomacy, a liking for people (especially kids) and a knowledge of simple mechanics and plumbing. Chores milkmen would do for their customers included lighting ovens, keeping an eye out for stray dogs, feeding goldfish for vacationers, and picking up Sunday’s breakfast rolls for delivery with the milk, butter, and eggs. Milkmen also watered lawns for people on vacation – turning the sprinkler on as they continued delivery up the street and turning it off later when they came back down the street. Milkmen never knew what they might be asked to do: fix breakfast for bedridden elderly, or leave their route to rush expectant mothers or injured children to the hospital. 

There were milkmen who would put the milk in the icebox and have coffee in the kitchen like they were part of the family. Some remember milkmen who would be in and out of their homes before 6 a.m. and recall hearing while still in bed the soft clanking of milk bottles being stocked in the refrigerator along with eggs and orange juice. Some milkmen would even leave a quart of eggnog as a thank-you gift at Christmas. 

Customers would leave all kinds of notes for their milkmen, including requests to borrow money; to wake them up when making deliveries; when and when not to leave deliveries; what items to leave even if they didn’t carry them; to help themselves to cake; to feed milk to the cat; and even a request to run the milk through the cow again as it was too thin! Boxes would even be built into home walls next to back doors so that milkmen could put deliveries in from the outside and customers could take them out from the inside. There were even customers who would collect enough paper milk bottle lids to ride free all day at Natatorium Park.

Major factors that played a part in the ultimate end of an era of home delivery were an increase in the number of supermarkets and convenience stores; more women working and unable to care for milk dropped off at home; the trend toward smaller families; milk that lasts longer; better refrigeration; and the advent of the second car in families, which allowed wives easy transportation to the store; the additional and increasing cost of home delivery; and stiffer price competition from the supermarkets and convenience stores.

Changing Hands

The Broadview Dairy became part of the Carnation Co. in an exchange of stock in 1929. Carnation, an evaporated and fresh milk producer, was founded by the Stuart family of Kent in 1889. The Spokane operation of Carnation continued to be known as the Broadview Dairy Co. until 1946, when the Carnation name was adopted for all products and operations. All entities of the business expanded during these years, and a cream plant was purchased in Stevensville, Montana, and an evaporated milk plant established at Sunnyside. 

In 1948, Carnation rebuilt, remodeled, and expanded by building a brick addition on the westernmost portion of the former Broadview plant at Washington and Cataldo at a cost of $400,000. Upstairs in the building there was a public viewing room overlooking the milk processing equipment. The remodeling increased capacity to 15,000 gallons of milk products per day compared to only 2,500 gallons a day in 1930. The plant had more than 175 employees, an extensive fleet of delivery trucks, and land holdings surrounding the plant.

The Carnation Company operated the Spokane plant until the sale to the Nestle Company of Geneva, Switzerland, in 1985. In 1989, Nestle sold all Carnation fresh milk plants – which included the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle plants – and the name was changed to Foremost Dairy Co. Foremost later lost the business in bankruptcy. Inland Northwest Dairies, Inc., a subsidiary of Goodale & Barbieri Cos., bought Broadview in 1991 and continued dairy production. In 1997, the plant was closed and production moved to the Darigold plant at 33 E Francis. 

With the move to Darigold, the four-story Broadview Dairy building, a city-registered historic structure, was sold by the Barbieri family to a Seattle company in 2018. The building has leased office space on the upper levels with retail space on the street level.

Local dairies such as Darigold, Inc., consolidated their milk processing and delivery operations to meet the demands of increased competition, regulatory changes, and new technologies. The companies needed to join forces to stay competitive. The Broadview Dairy will be remembered as having played a part in the evolution of the industry and of the fond memories of milkmen.

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