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
citys 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 years ride pales in comparison with the
buildings 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 citys founding fathers, Isaac I. Lewis,
bought in the first mercantile business there. It was originally called the Comstock and
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, lamb buyers from the packing companies
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 Lanes 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, Its 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
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 Ketchums
and Sun Valleys resort economy, those constructing the Sun Valley resort made their
headquarters in the "club house," which was at the front of the Lane Mercantile
In 1936, Averill Harrimanthe man responsible for Sun
Valleyinvited John Lane Sr. to establish Lanes 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
"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 banks 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.