Wallace is a fine example of an old mining town and during its heyday, used to be the center of a lead, silver, and gold mining in this part of t he state. Even President Teddy Roosevelt visited in 1903 and the city spent over $5000 on decorations and banners to welcome him. At the time that was a lot of money. This town of about 1000 people is located about 15 miles west of the Montana border. The 90 freeway completely bypasses the entire city of Wallace with its raised overpass. Wallace has some of the finest restored buildings of any mining town that I have visited.
Dante’s Peak – Several movies were filmed here including Dante’s Peak (1996). There are also several mining related attractions located downtown (more on these shortly).
Briefly, the movie is about a volcanologist who receives word about rumblings coming from a mountain near the town of Dante’s Peak. This scientist travels to a town in the northwest expecting to find normal geologic activity. He is surprised and alarmed when he sees increased geological activity. Experts soon doubt his theories that the mountain will blow its top. He then receives the help of the town’s mayor and tries to convince his superiors and authorities about the danger of the active volcano.
After the filming crew for Dante’s Peak arrived on location, the town of Wallace began to transform. First, hundreds of local residents were invited to be extras in the film cast. Then new construction projects began, projects such as building additions to city hall, building a new church, a new motel, and even a new freeway ramp. Next all signs that said Wallace were replaced with signs that said Dante’s Peak. Soon after the construction the movie’s two stars, Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton arrived.
The movie featured some neat special effects including blowing up a freeway ramp constructed especially for the movie. This explosion drew many residents and visitors. During one scene the entire town was covered with fake ash. Bins were placed at strategic locations around the town. These were filled with ash and when the ash was dispersed Wallace looked like a disaster zone. Another neat trick Universal Studios employed was to painstakingly put fake leaves on trees. Apparently one scene was supposed to occur during the summer but they were filming it in the winter and none of the trees had leaves.
Oasis Rooms/Bordello Museum and the Sierra Silver Mine Tour is one attraction left over from Wallace’s early mining days. The Bordello Museum is open to the public. It was purchased in 1993 by a local entrepreneur and converted to a museum. This entrepreneur also hired a muralist by the name of Robert Thomas to paint murals on the walls of the former saloon in the building. The guided tour through the second floor of the brothel is the main attraction. This museum is located at 605 Cedar Street. For more information call (208) 753-0801. The museum is open daily.
Sierra Silver Mine Tour is the only tour of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. After paying the admission, one is transported by a sixteen passenger trolley through the streets of Wallace to the mine entrance. Visitors are then given hard hats and guided through the mine tunnel. A guide provides additional information about the actual displays and exhibits.
One can observe the mining equipment and learn about techniques used to mine silver ore. Allow at least 90 minutes. The mine office (where you purchase tickets – and or browse through their large collection of free travel information) is located at 420 Fifth Street. The tours leave every 30 minutes daily from 9am until 4pm from mid May through mid October. The hours are extended during July and August from 9am until 6pm. For more information call (208) 752-5151. Visit: www.silverminetour.org
Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum is well worth visiting and is the building one most likely will remember from their trip to Wallace). The Railroad Museum is located at 219 Sixth Street, next the 90 Freeway bypass. The railroad was built in 1901 and operated until 1980. Some of the exhibits contain pictures, railroad relics, and a recreation of an early 1900’s railroad depot. Allow at least 30 minutes They are open daily from 9am until 7pm from May through September. In April and October they are open from 9am until 5pm, Monday through Friday. The hours vary slightly the rest of the winter so call ahead. For more information call Phone Number (208) 752-0111.
Mining Museum is located at 509 Bank Street. This museum displays local mining equipment, pictures, and a model of a working mine. A 20 minute video portrays the life of early miners. Allow about an hour to see the museum. They are open daily from 8am until 8pm, June through August. Then in May and September from 8am until 6pm, Monday through Saturday. For more information call(208) 556-1592.
A few lodges in and around Wallace are the following:
As far as dining, several cafes and restaurants are located in downtown Wallace. During my time in town, I ate several meals but found the food simply average. Two restaurants worth checking out are: