Wallace District Mining Museum
509 Bank St
Wallace, Idaho 83873
Friday-Monday & Wednesday: 10AM-3PM
Children 6-17: $1
Children Under 6: Free
The Wallace District Mining Museum celebrates 130 years of silver, lead, zinc, and gold mining in Wallace, Idaho and the Coeur d’Alene Mining District. The district certainly deserves a dedicated museum: it is the largest silver producing district in the world and 10th greatest overall. Furthermore, where better to base this museum than Wallace, Idaho, “Silver Capital of the World”?
History of the Coeur d’Alene (Silver Valley) Mining District
Mining in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District or Silver Valley, Idaho can be traced back to the 1800s. In 1879, Tom Irwin is considered to be the first to discover a gold bearing quartz vein in the valley.* Hard rock gold mines such as the Crystal Gold Mine in Kellogg, Idaho pop up throughout the valley.
While early miners first come to the valley in search of gold, it is actually silver, zinc, and lead that prove to be the more common metals mined in the area. By the conclusion of WWII, 34 concentrating mills and 24 mines are in operation in the Silver Valley—Bunker Hill, Sunshine, Day, Federal, and Hecla are most notable among them.
By the 1970s, half of the silver mined in the United States comes from Coeur d’Alene Mining District. Yet, this is the beginning of the end for the silver valley and by the early 1980s, mining activity slows significantly. The resulting massive layoffs lead to a drop in population. Today, efforts to clean up after over a century of mining waste has transitioned the valley’s focus to tourism and outdoor recreation.
Yet, Coeur d’Alene Mining District remains a historic site. Overall, it has yielded $6 billion in ore: more than a billion ounces of silver, 3 million tons of zinc, and 8 million tons of lead. In total, Silver Vally remains one of the top ten mining districts in the world.
Visiting the Wallace District Mining Museum
The Wallace District Mining Museum is located in downtown Wallace, Idaho. Wallace itself is a product of the mining boom and became famous as the “Silver Capital of the World.” While a quite tourist town today, the museum commemorates the heady days of silver mining. Displays span mining techniques, assaying tools, mineral samples, and an exhibit commemorating the devastating 1910 fire. Start with a 20-minute educational video, played on request. Then wander the collection, notable for many original items from local mining operations such as the three dimensional map of Page Mine. It is an exciting and educational experience to any lover of mining history.
*Granted, this is a contentious claim, given there is no known evidence that he had a hard rock mine. Of course, many things have been lost in the intervening century.