Idaho is best described as a gold rush town that didn’t die, instead time stood still. Gold was discovered in the Boise Basin in 1862. The town of Bannock sprang up as supply centre in competition with nearby Placerville. Soon renamed Idaho City, it won the battle with Placerville and its population in 1863 soared to over 6000, making it the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. The city was devastated by four major fires between 1865 and 1871, but so rich were the nearby gold strikes that each time it just bounced straight back. Idaho City went into decline when the mines closed, but it was never abandoned. Many buildings from the gold rush era are still standing, partly as a result of the early fires that encouraged rebuilding in brick. The population today is in the region of 450 people.
Idaho City Pioneer Cemetery
The graves in the Pioneer Cemetery date back as far as 1863. Many of the early graves in the cemetery have only wooden grave markers, so sadly in some cases the names have been lost. There are around 200 early grave markers still standing out of an estimated 2,000 and from these it is possible to glean that in the gold rush days death by natural causes was the exception rather than the rule.
Idaho City Hotel
Originally called the Smith Hotel and Boarding House, this is a relative newcomer as it did not open until 1930. However, it is believed that parts of the building come from a much older hotel that stood in Placerville, which were moved here when Placerville went into decline. Idaho City Hotel still operates as a small hotel.
Miners Exchange building
In London the Financial Markets began with trading in coffee shops. While rich London merchants would happily go to a coffee shop, that was not the way of the West in gold rush times. After a hard day a miner would head for a saloon in Idaho City, and in most saloons he could exchange his gold dust for money or even a few drinks. This saloon was built after the 1865 fire and it acquired its name because it was a popular place to exchange gold dust. Nowadays it is used as Boise County offices.
Boise County Courthouse
Built as a General Store in 1871 at the end of the series of fires, this building was constructed with an extremely high level of fire protection. Later it was converted into the Orchard Hotel. By the early 20th century the original county courthouse was in a bad state of repair, so in 1909 Boise County bought the Orchard Hotel and turned it into a courthouse, a function that it continues to perform today.
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