James P. McGoldrick, born in 1859, started in the timber business in Minnesota. Seeing that most of the lumber he sold came from the Northwest, he moved to Spokane in 1906 and bought a mill south of Gonzaga College, east of downtown Spokane.
The McGoldrick Lumber Co. eventually covered 60 acres along the Spokane River. Logs were stored on the Spokane River and milled lumber was dried in piles outdoors. The company added timber holdings around the region and the mill became one of Spokane’s largest employers.
A son, Milton, took over the mill and other businesses when his father died in 1939. The sprawling complex had suffered a number of fires over the years, but on a hot August day in 1945, gusty winds fanned flames that leveled most of the plant before firefighters could make a stand. It threatened the Gonzaga football stadium and surrounding houses, but 175 Navy sailors who were training at Gonzaga pitched in to stop it. A pair of 200-foot smokestacks crumbled in the heat.
Milton and his son, James II, planned to rebuild, but the war made new equipment hard to find and timber prices were dropping, so the McGoldricks decided to shut down after 41 years of operation. The salvaged equipment went to a mill in Priest River. Timber lands were sold to the Ohio Match Co. Milton died in 1947 at age 54.
James II, who was born in 1916, became a star track athlete. In 1945, he started Northwest Electronics, a manufacturer and distributor, and he became a lifelong airplane pilot and aviation promoter. He served on many corporate and civic boards, including the Chamber of Commerce, Expo ’74 and Spokane International Airport. He wrote history books about Spokane aviation and the family lumber business. He died in 2012.
– Jesse Tinsley