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Spokane Mourns the Loss of a Landmark

Monday, September 26, 2011 @ 12:09 PM Karen Hood

Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle, a beloved restaurant and landmark in Spokane’s Garland District, burned to the ground on the night of September 25. The fire also destroyed Ferguson’s Café next door, and was so large and difficult to contain that it took 50 firemen almost two hours to put it out. Both restaurants were featured in the 1993 movie Benny and Joon, and the Milk Bottle in particular has come to be nationally known as an iconic location in Spokane.

The Milk Bottle was built in 1935 as a retail store for the Benewah Dairy. At 38 feet tall and 15 feet wide, it is one of a handful of giant milk bottle buildings scattered around the United States—and one of the most famous. The dairy closed down in the early 70’s, leaving the Milk Bottle unused until 1994, when it reopened as Mary Lou’s restaurant, serving some of the best local burgers, thick-cut fries, and delicious homemade ice cream. Mary Lou’s has been a favorite among North Spokane residents ever since, and their ice cream became so popular that it was served in other local restaurants around town. The restaurant had an old-fashioned charm to its décor, with black and white checkered tile floor, historic photos displayed on the walls, and 50’s style bar stools at the front counter. At first, the Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle was open only for lunch, but the past two summers their hours were extended into the mid-evening so that locals could grab an ice cream cone to cool down on a hot summer night. Many people around Spokane have fond memories of both the Milk Bottle and Ferguson’s Café and have been devastated to learn that they are gone, describing it as a heartbreaking loss for the city.

Update: Although the Ferguson’s building has been deemed a total loss, the Milk Bottle is still structurally intact. The owners of both restaurants state that they have plans to rebuild. The cause of the fire is still under investigation at this time.

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