Sunday, September 1st- Tuesday, Sept 3rd, 2013 – We moved on down the road about 70 miles, and east on I 90 to the little town of Wallace, Idaho (pop 960). Wallace is a good launching point for the Hiawatha Trail, another nice rail to trail bike path that we had planned to ride. Besides, who could pass up an entire town that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places?
Wallace, like so many of these little communities began as an old mining town in 1884. Silver mining grew this town, as did the railroads that provided transportation and services to the west. In the early 1900’s this town was thriving, and even welcomed a visit by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903.
This beautiful turn of the century building is the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot. It originally stood about 200 feet on the other side of the river. In 1980 the Depot was closed and due to be demolished to make way for I 90 construction. Fortunately, the town decided to save this building,and it was moved to its current location and restored in 1986. It is a beautiful building, and we got a great tour along with a lot of ‘way cool’ history.
Wallace has a cute and fairly active downtown, comprised of the original 1890’s buildings.
This building, which houses the Sixth Street Melodrama, is the oldest clapboard building in Wallace. This building used to house a hardware store on its first floor, with a brothel upstairs……Oh so many double entendres come to mind, but I will spare you. ;- )
And, speaking of brothels, we took a rather unusual tour of the Oasis Brothel Museum in its original location in one of the historic buildings in Wallace. This brothel had been open for business from 1886 until 1986. The town of Wallace had a casual ‘arrangement’ with gambling and prostitution. it was illegal, but tolerated. If the state law enforcement came to town, the illegal businesses were alerted, before a raid.
The Oasis Brothel was deserted in haste in 1986, just before a raid, and then shut down before any of the ladies could come back. to claim their things. Personal belongings, clothes, and lingerie were left in the rooms where the girls had worked and lived. Dishes were even left in the kitchen sink, and groceries on the counter. When someone bought the building, years later, they realized that it would make an interesting museum and left everything ‘as is’.
We had a great tour of the place by a woman who had grown up in Wallace. The ‘museum’ was actually kind of strange and sad. The décor was tacky 1960’s, with green shag carpeting and dark paneling. The windows had been kept boarded up while the girls had lived there. And the ‘working girls’ had to be, by agreement with the city, from somewhere else, not local girls. They were not allowed to be seen anywhere in town. If they left the brothel, they had to leave the city limits. Despite these restrictions, Ginger and her ‘girls’ were such a part of the community that they bought the high school band new uniforms (in exchange for a promise to not have them practice downtown while the girls were sleeping). Go figure…..
While visiting Wallace, we also took a tour of the Sierra Silver Mine. Mining was, and still is, a major industry in this area. In the 1970’s, the city of Wallace even offered high school classes in mining, guaranteeing a job to anyone who wanted one. This mine remained active until the 1980’s.
We were staying at the Wallace RV Park……
A nice enough parking lot chosen for its location within walking distance to all of the historic downtown,.
We happened to be in Wallace over the city’s Labor Day ‘Under the Interstate Flea Market’, just two blocks from our campground.
It is really ingenious to use the area under the interstate ramp. It was cool, shady, and protected from rain if a storm came up. We wandered up and down, looking at everything….marveling at what people had for sale. We bought a couple of ‘treasures’, and shook our heads at some ‘antiques’……things that we had had or still had from 30 or so years ago.
This young mother, and her husband had a booth set up…..She was lovely, quite and calm and attentive to her children who were playing behind the booth.
I took their picture because they just seemed so sweet……
One more tidbit to mention about Wallace, Idaho. The city has proclaimed itself to be the ‘Center of the Universe’ and welcomes anyone to disprove it. Of course, we all know just where (or who) is the real center of the universe!