Buildings have a rich history

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)Area firefighters inspect the scene after after an early-morning fire Monday destroyed five businesses in Sandpoint's Historic District.

SANDPOINT — Over the years, the two buildings gutted by Monday’s fire have been home to everything from a bakery and a theater, to a shoe shop and a flooring store, to several restaurants.

A third building to the north of those destroyed in the fire, and which suffered heavy damage in the blaze, was once the home of the Sandpoint Elks Lodge and housed a bowling alley in the basement.

According to local historian Nancy Renk, in a 1984 nomination application to the National Register of Historic Places, the district was home to 15 buildings in the city’s core — 13 of which were found between First and Second avenues and Cedar and Main streets. Most were built between 1904 and 1915, with the Panida Theater down the street in 1927 and the Elks coming nine years later in 1936.

Brick was the predominant building material, ranging from light pink and red to dark brown and tan. Three of the buildings were one story with the rest two stories. Modest designs dominating and reflected the commercial style typical of the region in the first half of the last century, from Florentine palazzo found in the Old City Hall on Main Street to the Panida’s Spanish colonial revival popular at the time to the Elks’ modest Art Deco style of the 1930s.

“Early photographs of the downtown Sandpoint district indicate that here have been few major changes over the years,” Renk wrote in the 1984 report. “The rutted dirt streets have, of course, been replaced with blacktop surfaces and sidewalks. First story facades have been remodeled over the years as styles have changed and this process continues today … building uses are currently the same as they were sixty to seventy-five years ago …”

Before Headlines Salon opened its doors, the building housed The Floor Show, owned by Chet Whitney, before it moved to Ponderay. Before that, the building was home to Haworth’s Bakery in the 1950s with the “best maple bars ever,” recalled former Sandpoint city clerk, Helen Newton. The building then became home to Rosholt’s Saddle and Shoe Repair Shop and, at one point in its storied past, the corner building also housed the Montgomery Ward catalog company.

Back in the 1940s and ‘50s, the China Kitchen location once played host to classic westerns and films from Hollywood’s heyday when the Lake Theater called the building home.

“Because the buildings retain much of their original design and character, a visitor to the historic district is able to imagine what downtown Sandpoint must have been like sixty years ago,” Renk said in the 1984 application. “The Panida Theater, Elks Lodge, and Sandpoint City Hall show little if any alterations to the exteriors. Other buildings have been remodeled on the first story facades, but for the most part this has involved only changes in storefront windows, covering of transoms, removal of awnings, and the addition of modern signage.”

Despite alterations to the lower levels, the district’s second stories have undergone few changes and “provide a delightful variety of window shapes, decorative brick bands, and both brick and metal cornices,” Renk said in the report.

“Within Sandpoint itself, the historic district is important in that it contains the largest concentration of older buildings that have retained much of their original character over the years,” she added.

Ironically, much of the historic district was born following a series of fires that hit early-day Sandpoint, packed with frame buildings crowded on either side of the railroad track on Sand Creek’s east side.

“After a particularly devastating blaze in 1900, many of the business owners chose to rebuild across Sand Creek in the townsite that had been platted by L.D. Farmin in 1898,” Renk noted in the report. “The new stores were of frame construction but these were gradually replaced with fireproof buildings when brick and concrete block became available locally.”

Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.

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