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For the week of Sept. 1, 1999 through Sept. 7, 1999

Lane Mercantile is a valley fixture

Maintains stature through the years


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Renovation options, sign controversy and a Starbucks in one of the city’s most prized historical landmarks,--the Lane Mercantile building on the corner of Sun Valley Road and Main Street in Ketchum has embarked on a roller coaster ride during the past year.

But the past year’s ride pales in comparison with the building’s rich past.

Like the mountains that surround the Wood River Valley, the Lane Mercantile Building has witnessed various periods of settlement and prosperity.

It has been a lasting icon in the valley since 1887 when it was built as a mercantile supplier for miners who ventured into the hills in search of shimmering veins of silver ores. In fact, one of the city’s founding fathers, Isaac I. Lewis, bought in the first mercantile business there. It was originally called the Comstock and Clark Building.

In 1915, John (Jack) and Adeline Lane arrived in the Wood River Valley on a motorcycle and sidecar, and Jack opened a mercantile business. In 1920, he moved his business to the Lane Mercantile Building.

In the following years, the building served as a hub for local sheep ranchers.

"Ranchers, lamb buyers from the packing companies… government coyote trappers, ranch foremen and sheepherders gathered on the chairs and benches at the front of the store every day in the spring, summer and autumn from the 1920s through the 1950s," Wood River Valley resident Jack Lane’s grandson John Lane Jr. wrote to the Ketchum City Council in June in an attempt to persuade the council to support an "Eat More Lamb, It’s Delicious" sign.

The historically accurate sign was approved and will soon grace the east facing side of the building.

"In short, the Lane Mercantile was the actual, if informal, center of the most important industry in south-central Idaho during (those decades)," he wrote.

In those years, John wrote, Ketchum was the greatest sheep shipping point in North America and perhaps the world.

John also pointed out that in the early development of Ketchum’s and Sun Valley’s resort economy, those constructing the Sun Valley resort made their headquarters in the "club house," which was at the front of the Lane Mercantile Building.

In 1936, Averill Harriman—the man responsible for Sun Valley—invited John Lane Sr. to establish Lane’s General Store, the first ski and sporting goods store in the valley.

In 1976, the building was transformed into a branch of First Security Bank. The bank was said to be one of the most distinctive financial institutions in the country.

"To walk through its doors is to walk into the past," reported the television show Incredible Idaho in the summer of 1976.

Many of the bank’s furnishings were specifically made to replicate furnishings that would have decorated a home or office in the 1880s.

More recently, it has been a clothing store and now has found Starbucks as a tenant.

Indeed, the Lane Mercantile building, still standing as tall and firm as it did in the 1880s, is as much a community icon today as it was 100 years ago.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.