Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Check out Ketchum’s history

Tour of city provides view into Ketchum’s pioneer days

Express Staff Writer

    On July 4, 1882, four prominent Ketchum men saw the fruits of their partnership come to life, when the Guyer Hot Springs Resort opened to host the city’s Independence Day celebration.
    The opening of the resort two miles west of Ketchum, near Warm Springs Creek, marked the beginning of an era in which several high-profile buildings were erected in the growing city.
    Circa 1884, Isaac Ives Lewis, a one-time Montana banker and one of the founding partners in the Guyer Hot Springs Resort, built the Isaac Lewis First National Bank on Main Street.
    That same year, miner Robert Emoric Leonard and Boise U.S. Marshal Joe Pinkham built the Lewis-Lemon General Store across from Lewis’ bank on Main Street.
    The building—built from locally made brick—was used as a wholesale and retail grocery business that sold clothing, hardware and other provisions. The structure was built with the encouragement of Lewis, who eventually partnered with his son-in-law, William Howard Lemon, to operate the site.
    In 1887, A.W. Comstock built a prominent brick building further north on Main Street, at what is now the street’s juncture with Sun Valley Road. The Comstock-Clark Mercantile building became one of the focal points of the community and was a hub of activity during the construction of the heralded Sun Valley Lodge in the 1930s.
    All three of the Main Street buildings today remain part of the downtown Ketchum landscape.
    The Issac Lewis First National Bank is currently being renovated. The Lewis-Lemon General Store was renovated to house the Cornerstone Bar and Grill. The Comstock-Clark Mercantile building is now the site of an Italian restaurant and wine bar called Enoteca.
    While a simple stroll down Main Street renders a glimpse into Ketchum’s past, history enthusiasts wanting a more in-depth look at the city’s early days can take a rewarding self-guided walking tour. Tips can be found at the Ketchum-Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum, located on First Street in Forest Service Park. The Historical Society can help give people an education in the history of some two-dozen historic structures in central Ketchum.
    Much of the history included in the city comes from Ketchum’s boom days in the 1880s, when hundreds of industrious pioneers arrived in the city to seek a fortune in the region’s mines.
    “By the end of 1884, Ketchum boasted 13 saloons, four restaurants, two hotels, three blacksmith shops, six livery stables, seven stages per day, two banks, a drug store, a bookstore, a weekly newspaper, a brewery … and many establishments euphemistically referred to as ‘female boarding houses,’” the Historical Society brochure notes.
    It adds: “Life wasn’t dull in Ketchum’s boom days. The Ketchum Keystone (newspaper) reported nonchalantly in 1885: ‘A great week for killings and births. The former in preponderance!’”
    For many participants, the highlight of the walking tour is the historic Ketchum Ranger District complex, located at Washington Avenue and First Street. The city-owned complex is today the site of numerous historic buildings, a public park and the Ketchum-Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum.
    For more information, contact the Ketchum-Sun Valley Historical Society at 726-8118.

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