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1929 – The Philena

Philena 1930

This faded gem was built by businessman and Cheney mayor, Clarence D. Martin in 1929, named in honor of his mother, Philena. It was erected as housing for single faculty members of the Cheney Normal School.

map showing location of the Philena
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The rich interior originally had hardwood plank flooring and painted wood wainscoting. There was a hanging, hexagonal light fixture made of wrought iron above the stairway foyer. French doors lead off the main foyer.

Philena Jane “Jennie” Fellows was born in Ohio about 1859. She came to Cheney with her husband, Frank M. Martin about 1883. She was an active clubwoman involved in several organizations including the Rebekahs, an auxiliary of the Odd Fellows. Mr. Martin was involved in a number of businesses before he and son, Clarence established their legacy with the Frank M. Martin Grain & Milling Company in 1907.

Front of the building

Over time, the Philena transitioned from faculty housing to housing female students, then both women and men, and finally was purchased by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The fraternity closed around 2020. The vacant building still evokes fond memories of those who lived there.

Loved my apartment there. When I was a kid, it was only grownups and mostly teachers or people associated with Eastern living there. I had a studio apt on the 3rd floor when I was going to EWU. Rent 75 bucks a month. (!) Built in bookcases, fireplace, lovely. I barely turned on my heat (radiators) because the people below had their heat on.

On the ground floor facing College Ave there was a glass French door entry. That space housed a number of businesses in the past, such as the Campus Inn restaurant, Cheney Public Employees Credit Union, JAAZ Hair Salon, the Martin family business office, and an ice cream parlor.

My sister lived there in the late '70's. One day I crawled through the mail / newspaper drop next to her door and waited for her to get home. Needless to say she was quite surprised having an unexpected visitor!

From Faculty to Frat Boys: Philena Apartments | Spokane Historical

Apartment building originally built to house female faculty is now inhabited by frat boys.

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