In the lungs of Spokane County sits an underestimated college town with a full-time residential population of around 12,000. During the school year, that number jumps up to a hefty 17,600 as Eastern Washington University brings in students from all over the country and through all walks of life.
Cheney is known for its small town charm that hails from the vast agriculture and rail ties as it sits at the highest point on the railroad between Spokane and Portland. In connection, Benjamin Pierce Cheney, a Boston railroad industrialist who became the director of the Northern Pacific Railroad, was the inspiration for Cheney’s well-known name today.
Although this little town does not seem to thrive as much as it did in the past, it is home to a historic downtown district, an evolved university district, and the occasional Seattle Seahawks practice. With EWU students hard at work by day, the town booms with fluorescent lights by night – awake and in constant celebration.
Through an abundance of agricultural appeal, Cheney boasts community rodeo days and farmers’ markets through the summer season. It’s filled with parks and trails for the outdoorspeople, and the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge – which homes basalt outcrops, canyons, ponderosa pine forests, and some of the last breeding habitats available in the eastern Washington area.
As Eastern Washington University continues to be the largest employer in the city of Cheney, it has grown to offer state of the art facilities with many more remodels underway. The Spokane Transit Authority provides efficient public transportation to, from and around the Cheney area that aids in daily commutes and the ever present “think green” initiative.
Cheney has been home to quit a few notables including: Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson who grew up in Cheney and became an aircraft commander and instructor pilot for the Air Force. With his abundance of medals and honors, he found himself an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in February of 2003. I trip that gave him purpose, but took his life.
Another notable resident of Cheney was NFL football player Steve Emtman who played for the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and the Chicago Bears. Born in Spokane, Steve then grew up in Cheney and eventually came to be a star athlete. He won both the Outland and the Lombardi Award and was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Although full of injuries, Emtman’s NFL career landed him into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He is also the founder of his company Defender Developments, LLC in which he established the 1,312 unit housing development, Terra Vista, located on the south side of Cheney.
Among others, Cheney has been home to geologists, authors, Olympians and scholars. Currently, it houses sports teams, diverse restaurants, a grocery store, a hotel for travelers, a red football field, 4 dentists and now, with the addition of the new CHAS clinic, 2 medical clinics. Close to the airport and now boasting a beautifully crafted CHAS clinic, Cheney merits a visit or two.
Written by: Katiah Peterson