In early Spokane, parks were primarily natural spaces used for picnics. When Parks Superintendent John W. Duncan retired in 1942, Spokane’s park system included more parks, plus features like playgrounds, swimming pools, golf courses and sports courts and fields.
Duncan was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and came to the United States as a boy. He studied park management and worked in Boston. He passed through Spokane in 1909 on his way to a convention in Seattle and returned the next year to become the city’s park superintendent.
Manito Park, which was supposed to be the city’s jewel, was in poor shape. “There was a dilapidated, broken-down greenhouse,” he told the newspaper. “There was fertilizer at the entrance of the park and they dumped rubbish in the gardens.”
His tenure kicked off as citizens passed an $850,000 bond issue for parks in 1911. Duncan began to modernize the parks system.