A Walk About Historic Wallace

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Without a doubt, Wallace is among the most unique towns that we’ve ever set foot in. The entire downtown district is on the National Register of Historic Places. It had active bordellos until 1988. And leading theoretical physicists agree that Wallace is the exact center of the universe!

Fine, perhaps it wasn’t physicists who decided that Wallace was of such cosmic importance, so much as drunken locals who, after a rowdy night of drinking in the Smokehouse Saloon, laid down a plaque in the intersection of Bank and 6th Street which reads “Wallace: Center of the Universe”. Despite the questionable science, the nickname stuck. And extra-terrestrials seem to agree; we saw two spaceships during our walk around town.

Though “center of the universe” might be a stretch, Wallace is certainly the center of the Silver Valley mining area. Only 700 people live here today, but it was once one of the largest towns in the Pacific Northwest, and probably its most notorious. Wallace was a hard-drinking, brawling mining town famous for its bordellos, which remained open until 1988.

Originally, Wallace was constructed mostly of wood, leaving it defenseless against the horrific 1910 wildfire that ravaged northern Idaho. Thereafter, all buildings constructed in the town center used brick. The result is an exquisitely-preserved mining town from the turn of the century. The entire historic district has survived the years, and visiting is like stepping back in time.

The official walking tour of Wallace starts at the old Train Depot, then leads visitors around on a comprehensive tour of 43 historic buildings. Hotels, brothels, bars, banks… just about every single building in the old town has a story to share. Despite the town’s diminutive size, we were exhausted by the end of our tour. Somehow, though, we found the fortitude to grab a seat in the 1313 Club, and treat ourselves to a delicious dinner of burgers and home-brewed beer.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Karen Ballard

    Wallace was a hard-drinking, brawling mining town? Love Wallace and didn’t know it soon enough. Cajoled for several years before I had a chance to go there about how great the place is and had to admit I’d been missing out. Still rough and tumble but lots of fun and I do love their sense of humor.

  2. Christopher

    Guys, the pix and the words are making me want to get out there to Idaho. In the summer or fall. I especially like the pix of the buildings with the corner cupolas. Brilliant work, guys!

  3. Pete Williams

    Fellows, until today I knew nothing about Idaho except potatoes were grown there. I am 67, retired and would love to travel and do what you guys did in the book. Thanks for writing it. That may be my only way I get to go to Idaho.  Thanks

  4. Barry

    I grew up in Wallace during the 50s and 60’s.  At that time our population, according to the sign on the edge of town was 2,412.  We were a thriving community:  3 drug stores, 2 men’s clothing stores, at least 1 women’s clothing store, 2 banks, 2 theatres, a J. C. Penney, another local department store, 4 hardware stores including a Western Auto, 2 hospitals, doctors, dentists, about 15 bars, 5 bordellos, 3 jewelry stores, a furniture store (rather large), 2 variety stores, 7 gas stations, 5 churches, 2 grocery stores and another mom and pop store, 3 car dealerships, 10 or so restaurants, a public and a Catholic school, a nice motel and several small hotels (mostly over businesses), a five story hotel with a bird cage elevator (unfortunately torn down in the 70s) and more than I can remember at this writing.  Once the mines closed, the economy went downhill.  I am able to visit every few years.  Good memories.

    1. Barry

      More: stationery store, florist, daily (Mon-Fri) newspaper, weekly newspaper, stock brokerage firm.

  5. Cheri

    I would like to buy a bowling arcade game you had in your ad!

  6. Pam

    Born in Wallace; grew up in Mullan. You forgot to mention how fun the 4th of July was when the streets were blocked for the carnival…and the filming of that Volcano movie …and, the Lead Creek Derby aka Shit Crick. I was indeed a hopping town and, because of the “whore houses”, women were safe to walk the streets at any hour.

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