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Nancy Foster Renk

Nancy Foster Renk

Leading up to the National Preservation Conference in Spokane, Washington, guest blogger Nancy Foster Renk will be publishing monthly posts about northern Idaho!

This blog started with a phone call out of the blue. Kathleen Barrett, of Preservation Idaho, asked me if I would like to contribute a few posts to a temporary blog to help promote the upcoming National Preservation Conference in Spokane. The idea intrigued me and here I am.

I got into history and historic sites survey through the back door. After four years of working at the Arizona State Museum, my archaeologist husband and I moved to the mountains of North Idaho where we built a log cabin and quickly discovered that it was harder to live off the land than we had expected. With $90 to our name, we took up temporary residence in Boise for the winter and were hired by the Idaho State Historical Society to write architectural descriptions of buildings for the initial historic sites survey in the state. Our “office” for those two winters was the vacant space behind the saloon exhibit in the museum where we looked at hundreds of slides and eventually learned some architectural terminology. After two winters of such work, we settled outside of Sandpoint permanently and I continued doing site surveys in North Idaho on a part-time basis for the SHPO. Once our kids were older, I enrolled in graduate school and got my M.A. in history from the University of Idaho. I now have my own consulting business where I primarily contract to do research and write historical reports.

I hope to use this blog to acquaint you with some of the history of North Idaho and the Inland Northwest. I'll also suggest some places that you may want to visit, either on your trip to the conference this fall or at some other time. Welcome to our neck of the woods!


Nancy's Blog

October 29, 2012
Shoshone Co. courthouse in Wallace, Oct. 1985 If you take the Friday tour to the Silver Valley (The Big Burn and Idaho's Silver Valley, led by Nancy Richardson and Keith Petersen, a 2012 National Preservation Conference Field Session), you'll probably see the Shoshone County Courthouse on Bank Street. It's a handsome Neo-Classical Revival building designed in 1905 by two Spokane architects, Lewis R. Stritesky and Robert C. Sweatt. The walls use concrete blocks made from recycled mine tailings. This the third official courthouse for Shoshone County and Wallace is the third county seat. Yes, there have been a few changes in Shoshone County in more than 150 years.
October 17, 2012
I love railroad trestles. They have enough angles and diagonals to make me think that my 10th grade geometry class may have had more relevance that I realized at the time. Some of the best trestles in Idaho are found on the Camas Prairie Railroad, easily seen from U.S. Highway 95 when driving between Lapwai and Grangeville. And if you take a short detour through Ferdinand along Old Highway 95, you can drive right through Bridge 40, which crosses the road more than 120 feet above the pavement. (Bridge numbers match mile numbers; when there is more than one bridge in a one-mile segment, they are numbered consecutively with decimals, such as Bridge 21.1, 21.2, etc.)
August 22, 2012
Those of us who live in the Idaho Panhandle refer to this area as North Idaho, as if it were a separate state. We live in the Pacific Time Zone, get our news from Spokane, and are more likely to follow Gonzaga basketball than Boise State football. We can drive to the capitals of nearby states more easily, and on better highways, than we can get to Boise. Sandpoint is 323 miles from Helena, 394 miles from Olympia, and 421 miles from Boise. Sometimes we feel worlds apart.
July 27, 2012
It's raining again in North Idaho. After a snowy winter and wet spring, the Pack River is running high. The broken pilings from the old logging railroad bridge near the store are covered with water, something that always happens during a high water year. This is not unusual for North Idaho, however, and other years have been much higher. Old timers will be happy to tell you about the flood of 1948 when water crept up the streets in Sandpoint almost to the courthouse. And that flood paled in comparison with the one in 1894 that washed out many sections of railroad tracks around Lake Pend Oreille and forced the Northern Pacific to ship passengers and freight via steamboat between Ventnor and Clark Fork. The flood that year set the historic high water mark that remains unchallenged.