Historic Wallace, Idaho

by Sue on August 17, 2011

creekside camping, Coeur D'Alene, Idaho

Relaxing in the quiet of the morning

After a surprisingly good nights sleep in our CRV camper we resume the drive east. Driving along Interstate 90, about 45 minutes past Coeur D’Alene, we decide to check out historic Wallace, Idaho. What a delightful surprise. The entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and whole blocks in the business district have remained virtually intact for a hundred years or more.

Historic Smoke House BBQ and Saloon

Historic Smoke House BBQ and Saloon

Located in the silver mining area of northern Idaho, mining began here in the 1880’s and by 1900 Wallace became the hub of one of the world’s richest mining districts. Since 1884, the district had produced 1.2 billion ounces of silver. Miners still mine the mountains for silver and today old mines are being reopened.

Red Light Garage in Wallace, Idaho

Red Light Garage in Wallace, Idaho

red light garage, wallace, idaho

Red Light Garage proprietor, Jamie Baker

Thirsty after walking around town, the Red Light Garage catches our eye. A very friendly waitress makes us Arnold Palmers (iced tea and lemonade) as we sit at the counter and take in the collections (vintage musical instruments, license plates…) that decorate the restaurant and antique store. Soon we are talking with the owner, Jamie Baker, who is a local historian. He tells us the story of May Arkwright Hutton a suffrage leader and political activist, talks about the mining wars, and we wind up the conversation with the forest fire of 1910 that burned half of Wallace. Some of you may know the book written about the fire by Timothy Egan – The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America. The largest wildfire in American history, based on size. In less than two days, it torched more than three million acres, burned five towns to the ground, and killed nearly one hundred people.

railroad station, Wallace, ID

Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum in Wallace, ID

Many stories emerged from the big burn. One of the most well known is Ranger Ed Pulaski’s heroic rescue of his crew in a mine tunnel. Holding his men there at gunpoint overnight, Pulaski managed to save all but 6 of his 45 men. In the 100+ years since the fire, the trail Pulaski’s crew used to escape became overgrown and almost impossible to locate. Then, in 2002, a local group partnered with the US Forest Service  to save the trail and mine site. The Pulaski Tunnel Trail trailhead lies about a half-mile south of Wallace on Moon Pass Road and is a moderately challenging two mile trail along the creek with large format signs along the way recounting the history of the fire.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Polly August 19, 2011 at 7:01 am

Hi, Jay and Sue: When I see travel.sketch.write in my mailbox, on cue
that old Willie Nelson tune, On the Road Again pops into my mind. I
googled, listened and loved it as much today as when I first heard it.
A simple tune that speaks to my gypsy soul, as I’m sure it does yours.
Reading your blog, listening to the tune, I was ready to jump in my
car and head on out…..Glance in your rear view mirror; that swirl of
dust may be me, in my green Subaru, on the road again, like you,
heading for places that I’ve never been. Cheers, Polly

Anita August 19, 2011 at 9:51 am

Hi there you two……so far your trip sounds and looks absolutely fabulous! I love the picture of you Sue, sitting there and I assume writing your blog or sketching? Great pictures all around and what a treat finding a place to eat that offers a gluten free menu; the burger sounded delicious….I can see your face :)
I agree with Polly, I’m… ready to jump in my car…. and ride East! Looking forward to reading more……much love, Anita

Joan Church January 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm

About the 1910 Fire, I would like to and this information, the Gentle Man that died in the Fire trying to save the family parrot was my grandfather they have lots of statements, and spellings of his name.
Well his name Was J.G.Boyd or Joseph Gaston Boyd, his son John C. Boyd was a Fire Chaptain at that time. Just about every article writing about both of them have been wrong, so I want to fix this. I know history books cant be redone but an inserts in your book. Grandpa Dad came here sometime in the early 1890’s.
My Dad J.C. was Fire chief from 1917 until 1951

Sue January 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Thank you Joan, for the additional information.

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