The Quaint and Colorful Historic Wallace, Idaho

Nestled beneath I-90 in the panhandle of northern Idaho about 40 miles west of  St. Regis, Montana, is the town of Wallace.


Wallace Welcome Center. A bike path runs beneath the interstate.


Every building in the business district of Wallace, Idaho is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only city in the United States to have this distinction.  In fact, with the completion of the interstate highway system in 1991, the interstate was raised and rerouted just north of town to avoid Wallace and its historic buildings.


Downtown Wallace. Notice the curve of the interstate at the center of the picture.


Wallace is delightfully charming and small – with a population of about 734. In its heyday, during the 1880’s and 1890’s, Wallace was a mining boom town.

Located in Silver Valley -Wallace, Idaho is  famous for being the “Silver Capital of the World.“ Silver mining is still an integral part of Wallace’s economy, but the town now caters to tourists, such as ourselves, who come for the outdoor recreation that the area affords.

The evening before our bike ride on the Hiawatha, we took in the sights around Wallace. I thoroughly enjoyed strolling around town and loved the ambiance of the neighborhood, particularly the residential area that sits on the hillside.

Houses on the hillside in residential Wallace.


Next, we explored the business district at the  “Center of the Universe“.


The Center of the Universe


We took lots of photographs and in doing so, realized that Wallace has a lot of barrooms. Not surprising considering its origins of a western mining town. (Imagine brawny men needing to wet their whistles after a day in the mines)


Saloons still are plentiful in this old silver mining town.


Many of the retail shops were closed for the evening, so most of what we did was window shop. It’s always fun to peek in the windows and see what’s inside. Sometimes I think of my Uncle Bill when I window shop, as he was a window dresser by trade and fashioned some of the storefront windows on the world famous Canal Street.


Window Shopping Extravagance


We continued browsing and came across the Oasis Bordello Museum. It had an attention-grabbing window to say the least with a mannequin dressed in a negligee – with a timer by her side.


Lady of the Evening


Also, a T-shirt in the museum window described the different services one could pay for and the time limits for such. I could try to explain the meanings of these things, (if I knew what they all meant), but – {blush} – the kids might be reading this.


Straight French - no frills?


According to the website, the history of the Wallace brothel goes something like this:

  •  The Oasis started business in 1895 as a hotel and saloon. (I’m picturing Gun Smoke here)
  • The two-story building survived the famous 1910 fire. This was a time when men in Wallace out-numbered women 200 to 1. (Yep, 200 to 1. I bet there was a lot of testosterone head butting going on at that time)
  • The final occupants left in a mysterious hasty departure.
  • So much so, that they left everything just as it was – food, clothing, toiletries, make-up, etc. (alien abduction perhaps?)
  • The Oasis was one of FIVE whorehouses operating in Wallace without hindrance, until 1973.
  • The last recorded entry at the Oasis Hotel was January 1988. (Obviously, this house of prostitution had a long and happy life)


The museum was closed when we visited Wallace, but from what I’ve heard it’s worth the 5 bucks museum fee to take the tour and experience a step back in time to Wallace, Idaho’s colorful past.



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