Idaho Free Press from Nampa, Idaho on February 27, 1976 · Page 74
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Idaho Free Press from Nampa, Idaho · Page 74

Nampa, Idaho
Issue Date:
Friday, February 27, 1976
Page 74
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Thejdaho Free Press. Friday, February 27,1976 - E-« 'Queen of Idaho ghost towns' preserved by grass-roots efforts H\ .hiliclhslup Silver City has been called the "Queen of Idaho ghost towns." Why' 1 What is meant by this designation' 1 Is it an important statement" If important, should the ghost town atmosphere he preserved' 1 How. and. by whom 1 ' These anil more serious questions have been debated during apparently endless meetings of concerned people. Silver City was the center of ihe renowned Owyhee mining district. Ciiumy seal for li" years. It was the largest town in Ihe county. Many great men of Idaho lived or visited there. The mines produced the valuable ore helped Ihe nation maintain credit abroad during Ihe troubled times of the 186i)s. The lifestyle ol the country was established by the needs of the town for food and produce. Milling declined early in ihis century. Following a'spirited contest the county seat was moved from Silver City in 1934 other more accessible towns grew to serve the people. As mines closed, businessmen left for more profitable opportunities. The courthouse was deslro.ved. buildings were sold for taxes, Ihe (own seemed doomed to fall. Winter snow and summer heat t w i s t e d the wooden buildings from their foundations. Kor approximately 20 years iiilver Cily remained almost deserted, the population was reduced lo one. urn Willie Hawcs stayed with his town. The first visitor that hiked over Ihe last of (lie snow drifts into town found Willie, a smile on his face, as he remarked. "I knew spring was almost here, the eggs won't pour out of their shells this week." And woe be to those who forgot lo bring Willie a dozen fresh eggs. But, the early 50s brought a change. Houses were passing into Ihe hands of second or third generation family owners. Some buildings were purchased by new people, Iliose who had no previous connection with Silver Cily. These new owners, both inheritors and buyers, liked Ihe recreational opportunities offered. Kour wheel drive vehicles made it possible lo explore the old wagon roads, and find beautiful vistas. Shutter bugs, rock hounds, bikers, cross country skiers and finally, snowmobilers discovered Ihe fun Ihis cmi/itry offered. .More cars came into town. The antiques on the shelves of the village store found eager buyers. You heard "what a wonderful old town," and "Please keep it just as it is." Among the old weathered buildings people were finding Ihe heritage of Owyhec County. ihe gold rush days and the feeling of 19th Century America The historic preservation uf Silver Cily has been truly a grass roots effort, because of the feelings that local citizens have for this place. No agency of slate, federal, or local government, had decided that Silver Cily should be preserved as a ghost town. Homeowners have led Ihe demand that Silver City he kept "as is." Owyhee people and organizations have supported Ihis drive. Visitors from throughout the stale and across Ihe country have confirmed Ihe need (o preserve that aesthetic- feeling of age. isolation anil peace thai is unique lo -Silver City. Three organizations have been instrumental in channeling desire lokeep Silver City "as is" in'o a working, ongoing, historic preservation effort: I. The Silver Cily Taxpayers, an organization formed of homeowners in Silver City, has led Ihe way. By their own desire these people- have repaired, renovated and maintained their biimes in the original style of each individual building. They remain standing today, only by Ihe efforts of these owners. 2 The Owyhec County Historical Society founded in 196(1, has worked closely wilh (he homeowner group. Many tnc'iiihers belong lo bold organizations. The historical society has prepared studies on problems facing ttiu preservation effort. One study concerns the ownership of land in Silver City. This remains the single largest problem faced by (he agencies involved. One study recommends a fire fighting system for Ihe town. Another series explores the administration of historic district, including visitor impact, aesthetic qualities, economic and environmental concerns. :t The Bureau of I.and Management. Ihe federal The Silver City Post Office, pictured in 1890, stands today, but all that remains of the courthouse building, to the right, are the stone archways. agency responsible for Ihe administration of public lands in tin 1 area, has been drawn into the historic preservation drive. The Silver Cily Historic District is on tin 1 National Hegisler ol Historic Places. Therefore, the B I..M must proceed slowly anil Such spirited activities as weight-pulling contests have passed activities have taken their place, bringing new life to the "queen from Silver City, but recreational of Idaho ghost towns." fiiuiiously in any lar-reachmg decisions concerning Silver City The B.L.M has been the catalyst that has brought into focus Ihe many problems. Ihe various interest groups and the rights of Ihe general public. .Meetings lor public input, as a factor of their planning program, were started two years ago. These meetings have aired the ideas, suggestions and concerns of homeowners. Owyhee County residents and people who use the public lands. Today, lire Silver City Taxpayers and the B.L.M. are working toward Ihe solution of land ownership within Ihe town. The county has adopted historic riislricl ordinance for Silver City, toe first zoning ordinance lo be enacted in Owyhee County. The public rights, the private righls. the historic heritage and Ihe aesthetic flavor of Silver Cily will he preserved. Photos show rise, fall of town Silver City in the mid-1880s Silver City, in 1900, before mining began its decline ^ The fact that the Masonic Hall, center of photo, appears to have been just re- In 1950 many houses In Silver City were oassina i"im« "«, J l*k J * * ' modeled, dates this picture in the early 1890s. third generation family owners. "'"9 Imo we hands of '* ' V '^ " ''** second or

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