James Durkin

On the lower level of Greenwood Cemetery, near the Spanish American cannon, James "Jimmie" Durkin lays buried under a block of granite. Durkin arrived in Spokane in 1897, 38 years old, with a pile of money and big plans. Spokane was booming and thirsty, and Durkin, fresh from an earlier liquor venture in Colville, was ready to compete. Competing with over 120 liquor establishments already set up in town, Durkin spent $21,500 on a major downtown corner lot at the intersection of Sprague and Wall, mounted huge window displays on his building, and become Spokane's liquor tycoon.

Jimmie Durken's right hand man, the enforcer known as The Colonel, simultaneously managed both the employees and the sometimes unruly drinking crowd. The dignified, white haired gentleman kept unruly language and behavior under control, and drunks were ejected from the premises before creating problems. The bartenders were professional and forbidden to drink while on duty. Durkin advertised only the finest liquors, serving to his clientele in the bar and retailing from the store. Known as the "working man's club," Durkin's was able to offer drinks that were better priced than the competition and in an establishment that was reasonably orderly and reputable.

In mid-December, 1915, with Washington State's prohibition only weeks away, Durkin Liquor Company ran an ad in the Spokane Daily Chronicle. "Durkin's Slaughter of Prices. Starts Monday." A case of Gordon's gin was selling for $13, West Virginia Apple Brandy for $2 a gallon, and a keg of twenty year old Old Crow Bourbon for $27. On December 31, the eve of prohibition, the paper ran an article on the famous Jimmie Durkin and the closing of his business. "Jimmie Durkin, Philosopher and Saloon Man, Quits with Million." Jimmie Durkin died of arteriosclerosis at the age of 75 on July 10, 1934, at Sacred Heart hospital, his wife and four children at his bedside.



Durkin & the Preacher
Learn about the connection between the town's leading liquor man and a local Baptist preacher. ~ Creator: Anne Coogan-Gehr
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