Photo: Bank Street in Downtown Wallase. The Wallace Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Photographed by user:Visitor7 (own work), 2011, [cc-by-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed March, 2023.
The Wallace Historic District embraces the commercial core of downtown Wallace. It is a distinct area of the city, bounded by mountainsides on the south and east. To the west is the residential section of Wallace and to the north are more modern commercial structures, such as motels, service stations and automotive dealerships. The areas at the corners of Fifth and Bank, Seventh and Bank, and Seventh and Cedar, which are excluded from the district, either contain intrusions or are vacant due to building attrition.
The district contains forty-two buildings, of which all but two are devoted to commercial or professional purposes. The buildings range in height from one to three stories, with thirty-four being two stories. Thus a continuous, unified streetscape exists, with only slight variations due to changing elevations. Brick is the predominant building material, being employed in thirty-five of the structures. Other materials include concrete block, stucco, terra cotta and stone. These exceptions, coupled with the varying colors of brick and the different decorative motifs, provide a dimension of diversity within the confines of the harmonious district.
The district was primarily built in the years 1890-1891 immediately following the conflagration of July 27, 1890, which destroyed the entire business section of Wallace. As such, many of the structures employ a commercial style typical of the late Victorian period which included cast iron elements and sheet iron cornices. Later styles are also present, since frame buildings were either removed in favor of brick or destroyed by fire.
The most notable of these twentieth century designs are the Second Renaissance and Neo-classical revival styles as represented in the Elks lodgehall, Shoshone building, Masonic lodge, First National Bank and the Idaho Building. Several buildings also employ an Art Deco look: the Gearon building, Ryan Hotel, and Tabors. The last two buildings were erected in 1933 after flames devoured the southeast corner of Cedar and Sixth, and were the last major buildings to be constructed in the district. Several modest one-story structures were built in the late 1930's and two one-story ~~~ brick intrusions were added within the past fifteen years. The styles are all typical of their period, convey a sense of historic continuity, and add to a cohesive commercial center.
The intersection of Sixth and Bank displays the most diversified and imposing group of buildings in the district. The White and Bender and the Rossi Insurance buildings stand on the two southern corners, their pressed metalxѥ corner turrets facing each other. The Second Renaissance Revival terra cotta First National Bank, Neo-classical Revival Masonic Lodge hall, and the 1920's commercial style Idaho building occupy the northeast corner. The two-story Delasmutt building stands on the northwest corner and served as the courthouse until the present county courthouse was erected. This group of buildings contain some of the finest examples of their various styles in the state. These buildings are in excellent condition and are the aesthetic core ~S of the city.
The Wallace Historic District is architecturally significant as one of the more intact urban cores in Idaho. Spanning the period 1890-1933, it presents a variety of styles including commercial, Neo-classical Revival, Second Renaissance Revival and Art Deco. The large number of extant nineteenth century buildings gives Wallace one of the highest concentrations of Victorian commercial architecture in the state. The amount of intact cast iron, much of it the product of a Spokane foundry, with work of the Coeur d'Alene foundry also predominating, is very high.
The district includes some of the finest examples of commercial architecture in the state. The Rossi and White-Bender buildings with their turrets are the best examples of Queen Anne commercial architecture in the state. The Ryan Hotel and Tabor buildings have good art deco motifs, a rarity on Idaho's commercial structures. Other outstanding structures in the district include the Shoshone building, the Elks lodge hall, the Masonic temple, and the First National Bank, all of which are comparable to most of the commercial structures in the state. All of the buildings are typical of their period and convey a sense of historic continuity.
With the arrival of a local narrow gauge railroad in 1887 Wallace became the major supply point for the rich lead-silver Coeur d'Alene mining district, in whose mountainous terrain the city is located. As such it was the economic center for the region and in 1898 became the political center as well, when it was made the county seat. The substantial bank buildings mercantile houses, hotels and the courthouse all attest to the prominent role Wallace has played in the development of Shoshone County. The town originally was built of lumber, but following the fire of July 27, 1890, brick became the primary building material as the town began to reap the vast benefits of the developing leadsilver mines in the region. The buildings in this district are reflective of the increasing prosperity visited upon the region and convey a deep sense of the history of the region.
The work of a number of Spokane architects may be seen in Wallace. Among the more prominent Spokane architects represented in the city's buildings are I. J. Galbraith, Breusse & Zittle, Albert Held, L. R. Stritesky and G. A. Pearson. At this time Spokane was the major city in the state of Washington with many Coeur d'Alene mine owners residing there. As such, it was one of the architectural centers of the Pacific Northwest.
Adapted from: Don Hibbard, Architectural Historian, Idaho State, <> Historical Society, Wallace Historic District, nomination document, 1979, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
5th Street • 6th Street • 7th Street • Bank Street • Cedar Street • Pine Street