Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Then and Now: Central Pre-Mix

William Murphy founded one of Spokane's most enduring and important businesses, Central Pre-Mix, in 1930s, a time where moving wet concrete by truck was still a new idea. Although the Murphy family sold the company in 1997, it is still a critical piece of the building industry in the region

Image one Image two
Image One Chris Anderson | The Spokesman-Review
Image Two Jesse Tinsley | The Spokesman-Review

Then and Now: Central Pre-Mix

William Murphy, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, formulated an idea for a business while running a steam shovel on Snoqualmie Pass in the 1920s. His family lived in a boxcar while he was on the job site. The stock market crash was reverberating through the economy when he settled on Spokane.

Murphy started one of the area’s most enduring and successful businesses, Central Pre-Mix. He and partner M.J. Burke perched a mixer on the side of a rocky outcrop beside Division Street so gravity would feed the machinery. Rail cars rolled above the mixer and dumped gravel, cement and sand.

The first year, there were two tub trucks and three men. Times were tough and the partnership dissolved early. Only 915 yards of concrete were sold in 1933, the depths of the Great Depression. But business picked up in 1935, and the company added its first two mixer trucks.

Murphy’s concrete built the new Rookery Building, the company’s first major project, in 1936. In 1940, Murphy built a small office by the mixer. By then there were 12 trucks and 40 employees. Over the years, the company poured concrete, opened gravel pits, sold bagged concrete mix, and manufactured prestressed beams for bridges and buildings.

The company expanded to Kennewick, Coeur d’Alene, Yakima, Moscow and several other locations. By 1962, the company had 250 employees. It poured concrete for schools, churches, banks, nuclear reactors and skate parks. In 1982, after more than 50 years, Central Pre-Mix lost its lease on Division and closed the original plant. Today, a facility on Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley produces concrete for the local market.

William Murphy, who died in 1959, passed the company to his son John, who in turn passed the management to his three sons, Michael, Tim and Dan. The Murphy family sold the company in 1997 to Oldcastle, now called CRH, a Dublin-based corporation that owns many similar businesses around the Northwest and is a worldwide supplier of building materials.

Dan Murphy said his grandfather had many employees who stayed with the company their entire careers.

“The CPM philosophy was to hire talented, dependable people and help them do their jobs,” he said. “They were to treat employees like family, and customers like friends of the family.”

Share on Social Media

Recently in Then & Now