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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Thursday, June 19, 2014

#2214 - The Spur, Harrah, WA - 7/3/2013

Sitting across the street from a large building with a plaque saying it was once the largest potato warehouse in the northwest, the Spur Tavern has definitely been around for a while as well. The bartender informed me that the owner told her that it's been around since the 1890s. I haven't been able to find any historical evidence of this, however, and from the generous help of the folks at the Yakima Valley Museum, it appears that at least the name "Spur" probably originated some time after prohibition (which commenced Jan 1, 1916 across Washington state) and that the current building may have been constructed in the 1920s.

"The Northern Pacific Railroad does not extend service to the Harrah area until about 1916-1917; after which much mention is made of the line being a spur off the main line running through Wapato (a town to the east)—and the line soon ventures further west to pick up lumber and farm products in White Swan.  And talk is made of “spurs” (or probably dead end sidings)  used to load iced or refrigerated boxcars off the main spur.  So the Spur Tavern probably was named for that as it is just north of the tracks." (John Baule, personal correspondence, June 22, 2014)

"The building now known as The Spur Tavern was originally occupied by the Pastime Pool Hall opened in either 1925 or 1928 by Luther Rathburn, who subsequently sold out to Jim Meikle and Sam Russell.  The reason I say 1925 or 1928 is because the source mentions the opening was after a disastrous fire that nearly destroyed the town—there were two such fires, one in 1925 and one in 1928.  It does not confirm the building was built then, just that the business opened so it could have been a new building or it could have been just a new business."  (Ibid)

Baule also notes that there was no town in this location in the 1890s, though of course this does not categorically rule out the possibility of a saloon here.

Nowadays, at least, the Spur Tavern is a homey, western-themed dive bar, with horse shoe drawer handles, tattered taxidermy, and pictures of various cowboys, horses, and Budweiser girls on the wood paneled walls. It's a brick structure, with a small crenulated facade along the top (the history of virtually every old town across Washington state includes one or more disastrous fires destroying the downtown core between the 1880s and 1920s, with brick buildings replacing wooden ones after the fire).

Harrah was originally established as "Saluskin" in 1913, named for a local Indian chief who was none too pleased when it was renamed after a local rancher a few years later (and is said to have subsequently refer to it as "Thief Town"). I arrived there on a hot Saturday afternoon, and chatted with the small number of patrons in the cool respite at the Spur bar. Just before I headed out for the road, a very drunk native American fellow named Jeff walked up to me, punched me pretty good in the arm, gave me an approving nod, and walked out.
4 Martin Rd, Harrah, WA 98933 - (509) 848-2855               
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