Bank Street in Wallace Designated as One of the Top 10 Great Streets in America
The American Planning Association (APA) announced the designation of Bank Street as one of 10 Great Streets for 2010 under the organization’s Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planners and planning play in creating communities of lasting value.
APA singled out Bank Street because of residents’ unswerving commitment to protect the street’s late 19th and early 20th century historic character, including efforts to stop a federal proposal to turn the street into a freeway. Additionally, the street stands out for its unique sense of place, given the picturesque Coeur d’Alene Mountains and Panhandle National Forest hillsides that lie just yards from the street’s sidewalks.
“The mountains and forests that surround Wallace have shaped the City over the years, but the citizens of Wallace are responsible for the preservation of the historic architecture and the character of the city,” said Wallace Mayor Dick Vester. “We have re-built the City after forest fires, litigated with the federal government to keep Interstate 90 from demolishing buildings, and worked tirelessly to maintain a thriving commercial district headlined by Bank St. The citizens of Wallace know that Wallace’s Bank St. is one of the greatest streets in America and we are honored that the APA is distinguishing Wallace and Bank Street with this award.”
Through Great Places in America, APA recognizes unique and authentic characteristics found in three essential components of all communities – streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces. APA Great Places offer better choices for where and how people work and live every day and are defined by many things including planning efforts, architectural styles, accessibility, and community involvement.
“We’re very excited today to name Bank Street as one of this year’s Great Streets,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. “Wallace’s successful challenge of the federal proposal to transform the street to a freeway is a testament to the important role residents can play in shaping their communities,” he added.
Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 40 Neighborhoods, 40 Streets and 30 Public Spaces have been designated in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
Wallace’s main right-of-way, Bank Street has been the social and commercial center of the silver-mining boom-town since its establishment in 1884. Although tremendously prosperous in the late 19th century, Bank Street fell victim to multiple devastating forest fires within a 20 year span, including the Great Fire of 1910 which burned some three million acres of Idaho, Washington, Montana and Canadian wilderness.
The street’s historic architecture stems from the turn of the 20th century, as many of its original wooden structures did not survive the fires. All of Bank Street’s historic buildings are protected by design guidelines and are part of the Wallace Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Among those arguing cases at the Neo-classical Revival Shoshone County Courthouse, built in 1905, was famous lawyer Clarence Darrow.
Recognizing the value of the street’s historic buildings, Wallace resident Harry F. Magnuson led a campaign, under the newly enacted National Environmental Policy Act, against a federal proposal in 1970 to raze the majority of Bank Street’s structures in order to accommodate expansion of Interstate-90 through town. The small town of 900 successfully defeated the plan and, in 1991, I-90 was routed on an overpass around Wallace at the east end of Bank Street.
Travelers on I-90 frequently stop in Wallace to marvel at the landscape or visit the historic mixed-use buildings now home to locally-owned eateries and shops selling antiques, silver-made items and other unique treasures.
Wallace will be honoring their Great Places designation Saturday, October 23rd , starting at 5:30pm with a parade on Bank St., speeches from local historians, and an Oktoberfest that will go on into the night. This event will award the town with the official certificate and be a celebration of this historic event in true Wallace form.
For more information about these streets, as well as lists of the 2010 APA 10 Great Neighborhoods and 10 Great Public Spaces, and designations between 2007 and 2009, visit www.planning.org/greatplaces.
This year's Great Places in America will be celebrated as part of APA's National Community Planning Month in October 2010; for more about the special month, visit www.planning.org/ncpm.