This building is significant and relates to the Black Historic Sites Survey for its association with Mr. Clarence Freeman, a well-known Black contractor and real estate developer. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Clarence relocated to Spokane in search of suitable employment opportunities. However, he encountered pervasive racial discrimination at various professional organizations, preventing him from securing a job that matched his qualifications. Subsequently, he obtained financial assistance from lenders and purchased the Merlin Apartments located at 29 W. 2nd Ave., as well as other properties in the vicinity. He then rented these apartments to military families who were facing difficulties in finding housing elsewhere.
In the 1950s, the dynamics changed, and the military tenants gradually disappeared. Faced with financial challenges, Freeman made the decision to demolish the apartment building. With the help of a small crew, he personally carried out the demolition. His determination and skill impressed a passing business owner, who offered Clarence the job of carrying out demolition of one of his properties. This event led to the establishment of Freeman Construction Co., a company that went on to construct numerous residential and commercial buildings throughout his successful career. Notably, he was responsible for building the drive-in for Dick's Hamburgers.
Mr. Freeman's life was marked by his humble origins and the struggle against racial segregation and discrimination. Despite these adversities, he left a legacy as a real estate developer and contractor. As part of the Black Historic Sites Survey, up to 15 properties were identified under his ownership, although the actual count might be higher.
His influence extended beyond his professional endeavors, as he served as the first black President of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) at Whittier School and held the position of President in the Kiwanis Club of West Spokane. He also initiated Spokane's first job fair and actively campaigned for the improvement of Liberty Park.
This building stands as a testament to the remarkable journey of Mr. Clarence Freeman, showcasing his contributions to the architectural landscape of Spokane and his significant impact on various social and community aspects of the city.
Today, Frankie Doodle’s and Dick’s Hamburgers, the two Clarence Freeman’s projects are under the ownership of an Asian American woman.