It’s an Idaho town you may never have heard of, and yet it has several unique distinctions.
Wallace, Idaho is a tiny town, but this little city of less than a thousand people has garnered a lot of attention over the years.
It’s the birthplace of movie star Lana Turner, and where the movie “Dante’s Peak” was filmed. For years, the tiny mining town of Wallace was famous not so much for its precious minerals but for its prostitution. However, it was another group of women who did something that quite literally saved the entire town from demolition.
There are books, souvenirs, even a museum that commemorates the town of Wallace’s infamous ladies of the night and its practice of legalized prostitution up until year 1991, but it’s another group of women that Tammy Copeland feels deserves recognition.
Tammy Copeland the Executive Director of the Wallace District Mining Museum says, “The prostitution was a part of the town that went on for a very long time, and I’m not saying good or bad, I’m saying it was part of the history. But the women taking it upon themselves to really this Nancy Hansen just spearheading these ladies to get this done I thought was really good. It’s why we’re here.”
When you walk or drive the quaint little streets of Wallace, you’re struck with a sense of days gone by. It seems as though the entire town is frozen in time, and in a way, that’s exactly what’s happened.
In 1970, the large Interstate 90 construction project was making its way through northern Idaho and the plan was to take it right through downtown Wallace.
“They said, you’ve got less than a thousand people here and the easiest way to build Interstate 90 through here is right through the downtown,” explains Tammy.
That meant demolishing the entire city. The people of Wallace may have been few but they were fierce and were determined to save their town. The majority of the men were miners and worked up in the mountains, so the battle was left up to the women of the town.
“So the women gathered together and the men’s support of course and money from some of the better healed individuals here and a lady named Nancy Hansen was the lead one and what she did was she spearheaded putting everything on the national register of historic places,” says Tammy, “They got a historic architect and went from building to building to building to check all that out. Everything is on the register, so it truly is the only town in the United States where the whole thing is on the national register of historic places. So when they came back to tear it down they couldn’t do anything because everything was on the register. So the highway is built to the side and over top of the town.”
The town of Wallace is still small, and because of its historic designation, nothing can be changed, the homes and businesses still look like they did over five decades ago, and the pride of what was accomplished all those years before that hasn’t changed either.