The Northern Pacific Depot & the Compromise of Wallace

The Northern Pacific Railroad Depot stands as an elegant reminder of two stories. The first is the age of the railroads and their impact on the Silver Valley of Idaho. The second story is about historic preservation and how concerned citizens worked to save this structure from demolition.

1883 brought the Northern Pacific railway to northern Idaho and transformed it from a dense forest to a populated developing region. With the building of the railroad through the Silver Valley population grew with its inhabitants and created an economic thriving community. The Northern Pacific Railroad brought population to principle areas of northern Idaho's mining and lumber mill towns. According to the 1940 census 10,548 combined residents resided in Coeur d'Alene , Moscow, Sandpoint and Wallace recorded 3,839 residents . These four towns were the only towns in the Northern Idaho region that had a population exceeding 2,500 people. The Northern Pacific Railroad was the first railway to enter through the Silver Valley, and connected the Silver Valley with coastal seaports. Northern Idaho's history of the railroad was threatened with the development of the I-90 highway that runs from Boston to Seattle. Idaho's department of Transportation had decided that downtown Wallace stood right in the path of the "Progress" I-90 highway developmental path.

Wallace had little effect on the outside world, but was the home of the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot built in 1902. The railroad depot was responsible for daily passenger comings and goings in the height of the silver boom as well as the loading and transport of freight in Idaho's economic boom. It also happened to sit directly in Wallace's historical district, with the railroad being such an important part of Idaho's economic success this depot was a sacred relic. Thanks to local heroes Nancy Lee Hanson and mining tycoon Harry F. Magnuson they were able to preserve Wallace and its railroad past. Hanson and Magnuson were able to add it to the list of historical places under the U.S. Park service. In the latter years of the 1960's the Northern Pacific Railroad was saved and out of harm's way until the compromise of 1986. Which sent the I-90 highway around Wallace by a few hundred yards; however it forced the city to move the depot in order to preserve it. The Northern Pacific Railroad Depot was moved 200 feet across the south fork of the Coeur d'Alene River to make room for two massive highway columns. Today the Depot is a museum in Wallace where tourist can visit seasonally and remains one of the most important relicts of Northern Idaho's Railroad past. Northern Idaho's history of the railroad remains a key aspect to their success in the era of mining and thanks to a town motivated in preserving their historical identity it still stands today. Once a relic of Wallace, Idaho and, the old historical district is now a fashionable place of interest for northwest road trippers.