A leisurely walk around town is a great way to take in many of the incredible historic buildings that can be found in Wallace. We spent an afternoon wandering through the downtown area, looking at buildings and shopping.
This really isn't located within Wallace, but rather is a very few miles west near the small town of Cataldo, ID. But, it's a must see building as it is the oldest existing building in Idaho. The Old Mission is described in detail on my Cataldo page, which is entirely devoted to the Mission and surrounding grounds, and has more than 50 images, but suffice to say here that the combination of Jesuit architectural genius, combined with Coeur D'Alene Native American influences and local materials make this a must stop within the Silver Valley.
Take Bank street to High street, and then continue across a small bridge to King Street. This neighborhood has plenty of homes in need of some TLC, but there are also several restored gems. These homes are mostly early 20th century. King Street continues as an access route to another town, but this road is only open in summer. In winter, King street can be navigated by snowmobile in winter.
Several modest looking homes along Pine Street are among the oldest homes in town, once owned by prominent mine owners. An owner invited me to visit inside hers, and she proudly told me how her home had once hosted President Teddy Roosevelt during his visit to Wallace.
This congregation's original church at this site was an 1889 wooden structure built on the site purchased from Wallace. The current buidling was designed by prominent local architect, Kirtland K. Cutter, and is of the English Country Style with protructing burnt brick. The main building was completed in 1910.
Cedar Street has the largest collection of outstanding late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture. Homes of businessmen, attorneys, and politicians are numerous here. Most all of these homes have been maintained, if not fully restored.
The most striking collection of commercial buildings of historic and architectural interest are located along Bank Street, which is also part of the Business I-90 route through town. The 1890 Rossi Insurance Building, at 602 Bank Street, with its pressed metal turret stands out as the most striking. Interestingly, this building was built for the Bank of Wallace, which failed by the end of 1890. It was subsequently occupied by two other banks that also failed. In 1917, Herman Rossi bought the building for his insurance business, so remains as the oldest continuous business in the historic downtown (109 years).
This restored old red tram takes tourists for a tour of Wallace. It departs from downtown every 30 minutes.
The tour offers a narrated commentary about the buildings and history of the town. It's a great way to learn more about the town's history.
As with any mining town in the 1800's, Wallace was predominantly a men's town in the early years, and businesses that "served" men's interests naturally sprang up quickly. At one time Wallace reportedly was home to 12 bars and 12 brothels.
One of the "quirks" of the town was that the brothels somehow managed to survive (and thrive, I'm sure!) until 1973. For some reason, the state and local officials turned a blind eye to Wallace's "special" services until that time.
One of the most famous brothels in town was the Oasis Bordello. According to local legend, the girls of the Oasis got wind of the fact that the feds were on their way to Wallace to shut down the brothels and arrest the girls. They fled from the town and left almost everything behind. When the feds arrived, all they found was clothing, food and furniture. When the girls found out what was going on, they left instantly, leaving food on the counter, dishes in the sink, and clothing in the closets. The bordello is now a museum, and things have basically been left the way the girls left it when they fled. It makes for a very interesting tour.
Guided tours are offered on the half hour daily from 9:30 to 5:30. (11:00 to 3:00 on Sundays) Admission is $5.00 per person.
The Sierra Siver Mine Tour was a must-see for us. Coming from a coal-mining region in Belgium, we feel somewhat related to the mining communities in the Northwest. Just like the sierre silver mine, the coal mines are closed now. The tour starts from the ticket office in downtown Wallace, a trolley males a narrated tour through Wallace and transports the visitors to the mine. The guide is a retired miner with a true heart for his mining career. Although he has survived a bad mining accident he still loves the miner's way of life. He presents a clear picture of the life in the mine and can answer all your questions. He demonstrates the still active equipment in the mine, which is quite impressive (and noisy).