Some towns thrive and so most of their history is modernised out of them, others become ghost towns and their history gradually crumbles away. A few towns, like Wallace, stay alive but become backwaters where little development takes place. Gold was discovered in the area in 1883 and in 1884 Colonel W.R. Wallace (who was not a real Colonel) founded Placer Center. His wife Lucy arrived the following year and she changed the name of the town to Wallace. By 1886 the population had grown to 500. The town was rebuilt after a fire in 1890 destroyed the business district, then in 1910 another fire caused massive damage and killed over 80 people. In the 1970s Wallace came under threat again, this time from Interstate 90 which was planned to go straight through the city resulting in the demolition of most of the historic downtown area. Fortunately in 1979 city leaders managed to get the historic area listed on the National Register of Historic Places which forced the Federal Highways Authority to change the route of the I-90 to spare the historic buildings. Although the boom times have long since passed, some mining continues, keeping the town alive with a population of around 1000 and a wealth of old buildings.
The Smoke House, Bank & 6th Street
Another survivor of the 1910 fire stands in Bank Street. Built in 1890 it lives on as a restaurant.
Oasis Bordello Museum, Cedar Street
The two-story brick building built in 1895 started life as the BiMetallic Saloon & Hotel. It was one of the few structures in Wallace to survive the disastrous 1910 fire. Exactly when the upper floor became the Oasis Brothel is unclear, but it was one of five that operated openly in the centre of Wallace even though they were technically illegal. In 1973 a newspaper investigation resulted in a clamp down on brothels, but the Oasis continued to operate clandestinely right up to 1988 when when Federal Agents arrived in town. The occupants of the Oasis were tipped off and they left in a hurry ahead of a possible raid, abandoning their clothing, make-up and toiletries. The building was sold to a local businessman in 1992 who found the interior of the building just as it had been left in 1988, right down to rotted food in the refrigerator. He opened the building as the Oasis Bordello Museum. Nowadays the former saloon on the lower floor is a gift shop, but the upper floor remains as it was in 1988 (excluding the rotten food) and can be visited on a guided tour. Click Tab 2 to see part of the display in the Gift Shop.
Buildings in Bank Street
This was the childhood home town of Lana Turner before she went to Hollywood and became famous. Bank Street has some of the best preserved old buildings in the town, and apart from the cars this view looks as though it has changed little since Lana Turner’s day. Downtown Wallace is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Former North Idaho Telephone Co building
The name North Idaho Telephone Co. is still just visible on the facade of this building. Now split into two shops, the left hand side was unoccupied when we visited in 2006 but the other side was a shop selling fudge.
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Northern Pacific Railroad Museum
The château-style Northern Pacific Depot was constructed in 1901 just a 60 metres (200 feet) from its current location. Passenger train service ceased in 1958 and the line was abandoned in 1994. When the route of Interstate 90 was changed to avoid the historic district, it instead threatened the Depot building. In 1986 the building was moved to get it clear of the path of the freeway. It now houses the Northern Pacific Railroad Museum which recreates the depot in its working days and tells the story of the railroads in the Coeur d'Alene Mining District. Click Tab 2 to see the Women's Waiting Room.