Main Streets 2016: Idaho
Local business has always been the lifeblood of Wallace, Idaho, a tiny city — the last U.S. Census counted its population as 784 — that nonetheless has a sparkling spot in history. Sitting alongside the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, Wallace is the principal town of the Coeur d’Alene silver-mining district, where more silver has been extracted than anywhere else in the U.S. That’s why Wallace is known as the “Silver Capital of the World,” and why every building in its central historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the resource-rich mountains nearby attracted prospectors and immigrants from around the globe, who worked in the silver mines and established their own small businesses, many on Bank Street. You can still visit several of Wallace’s historic brick buildings, which were built in 1890 after a fire destroyed much of the central business district. This mining town attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year, thanks to its area’s motherlode of world-class hiking trails, bike paths and neighboring ski resorts.
Against a backdrop of stunning mountains and lush, green forests, visitors stand on Bank Street at what a local mayor once proclaimed as “The Center of the Universe.” A manhole cover at that spot now bears the legend, “Center of the Universe. Wallace, Idaho.”
Wallace has several history museums that recall its vivid past. At the west end of Bank Street, the Wallace District Mining Museum and Visitor’s Center traces the growth of the mining industry. It also has a special exhibit on Ed Pulaski, a forest ranger who rescued 38 men in 1910 during the largest wildfire in U.S. history.
Along with preserving much of its Old West charm, Wallace is home to a growing food and beverage scene, with its historic 1313 Club saloon and Wallace Brewing Company on Bank Street and Smokehouse Barbeque and Saloon across the street at the corner of 6th Street. Bank Street is dotted, as well, with microbreweries, antique stores, jewelers and other independent businesses.
Like many small towns, Wallace knows how to throw fun community events, especially in the summer. The Annual Street Fair brings together artists, entertainers and vendors each June, and every August locals take to the streets to run the Huckleberry Festival 5K.
Huckleberry Festival 5K photo courtesy of Historic Wallace Chamber of Commerce