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Days Past: Whiskey Row’s Dynamic ‘D.C.’ Thorne, part two

The Palace Saloon’s roots trace back to Thorne’s 1874 Cabinet Saloon, making it the oldest saloon in Arizona by at least 5 years. (Norman Fisk/Courtesy)

The Palace Saloon’s roots trace back to Thorne’s 1874 Cabinet Saloon, making it the oldest saloon in Arizona by at least 5 years. (Norman Fisk/Courtesy)

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D.C. Thorne rebuilt his Cabinet Saloon at 122 Montezuma St. after it burned down in 1883. (Image courtesy of Sharlot Hall Museum, BU-B-8033P.)

As noted in part one, Dan “D.C.” Thorne came to Prescott in 1867. In 1870, he traveled east and “committed matrimony” with Mary Wilson of New Jersey. He opened the Cabinet Saloon on lot 19, 118 Montezuma St., in 1874 and soon made it the go-to place on the evolving Whiskey Row.

Thorne lost his beloved Mary, who died from childbirth complications, in 1880. A year-and-a-half later he married a young Texan, Josephine Bouyea. At one point, Josephine ran a boarding house with her sister, Alice, somewhere on Montezuma Street. Evidence points to the strong possibility that it was a house of prostitution. Nonetheless, the couple remained married for 31 years.

Throughout the 1870s and early ’80s, the dynamic Thorne kept the “Cabinet” constantly at the forefront, setting trends for all other early Prescott saloons to follow. That is until June 23, 1883, when Nathan Ellis and Al Whitney opened a state-of-the-art “resort” on Goodwin Street facing the plaza. It was called the Palace Saloon.

Two weeks later, at approximately 8:30 on the morning of July 6, 1883, the courthouse bell sounded, calling Prescott’s volunteer firemen to action.

Citizens sprinted from every direction toward Thorne’s establishment. Voluminous smoke gushed from the windows and doors of the Cabinet’s restaurant section, where the fire had started from a defective flue. Within minutes, flames burst through the restaurant’s rooftop, and soon through the saloon itself. After nine years of sustained success, the Cabinet burned to the ground.

About one-third of the plaza portion of Montezuma Street was wiped out as well before the dynamiting of the Diana Saloon — where the Hotel St. Michael now stands — stopped the conflagration in its tracks. The northern third of where today’s Whiskey Row is situated became the “burnt out district” for several months.

Seven months after the Cabinet burned down, Goodwin Street’s “Palace” was also reduced to ashes. On July 4, 1884, it was reopened — with stone, brick and iron — on lot 19, 118 Montezuma St., where the Cabinet had thrived from 1874 to 1883.

Meanwhile, Thorne chose not to immediately rebuild the Cabinet. He took a proprietary detour when, in October 1884, he grabbed the reins of the Eclipse Saloon on 106 Montezuma St. (today’s Newman Gallery location). The Eclipse had been opened earlier that year by the man probably most familiar to those interested in Palace history, Robert Brow. Thorne immediately made the Eclipse one of Prescott’s top two saloons, competing neck-and-neck with the Palace. But something went wrong along the way. The Eclipse proved Thorne’s only saloon failure, closing in 1885.

Thorne’s thoughts turned to rebuilding the Cabinet. In 1886, he established a new version of it on lot 21, 122 Montezuma St. Now the Cabinet and Palace would compete with each other almost side-by-side. A 25-by-150-foot lot at 120 Montezuma St. would separate them for the next 14 years. It would be a joint usage space during that span. Today, it is the center portion of the Palace.

Thorne’s association with the Cabinet quickly ended after having a dispute with partner Pete Kastner over the latter’s financial mismanagements. However, Whiskey Row businesses usually proved lucrative, and Thorne was not one to stay out of such a scenario. In 1886, he grabbed proprietorship of the Palace. His stint there lasted until 1892, when he left the saloon business forever to focus on mining. That same year, Brow bought a 50 percent interest in the Palace.

The Thornes moved to Maricopa County in 1897. In 1900, the Great Fire of 1900 wiped out Whiskey Row, including the famous Cabinet and Palace saloons. Afterward, the proprietors of both saloons — instead of continuing to compete against each other — purchased lots 19, 20 and 21 from Hugh McCrum, merged their businesses and rebuilt there. The Palace and Cabinet saloons became the Palace Saloon.

By 1902, D.C. Thorne was residing in New York City, and it was there he died in 1913. If, however, he had stood in 1901 with his family in front of the magnificent edifice known today as the Palace Restaurant and Saloon (and eventually the Jersey Lilly) and told them, “This all began with me in 1874,” he would have been stating an absolute truth.

Contact Brad Courtney at whiskeyrowbooks@gmail.com for a free “Whiskey Row History Walking Tour.”

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.

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