Monday, February 23, 2009
A Fine Day Out #1 - Council, ID
(Pic Caption: An old fire truck for the Council Rural Fire Department, an all-volunteer force. )
Hey, we’re starting yet another series here on Robert Frost’s Banjo. In the better months of the years, Eberle & I love to go on weekend jaunts, & we thought it would be fun to combine these jaunts with photos & stories for the blog. The Fine Day Out series won’t necessarily be appearing at fixed intervals, but it should be appearing often over the next several months.
Of course, to say that the weather in our area right now falls under the aegis of “better weather” is just plain wrong. The winter has been hanging on longer than usual (tho one thing I’ve learned in 11 winters in Indian Valley—there is no “usual” winter here); the mud is often as prominent in the landscape as the snow by late February, & sometimes there’s much more newly bare ground than snow by this time of year. Not in 2009, however. A combination of big snowstorms in late December thru early January & consistently cold weather since has left us with several inches still on the ground except on the steepest south & east-facing slopes.
With this lingering winter, Eberle & I were both suffering a bit of cabin fever yesterday, & we decided we needed a bit of a jaunt, even if just a short one. So with camera in hand, we headed up U.S. Highway 95 to Council, the next town up the road, & the county seat of Adams County, Idaho. At a population of just over 800, Council is the “big town” in Adams County. It was founded in 1873 by the Moser family. The Moser raised cows & hogs, & sold meat & butter to the miners working in the nearby Seven Devils Mountain range. The town got its name because local Native American tribes—the Nez Perce, the Umatillas & the Shoshone—used the area as a meeting place.
(Pic caption: The historic Adams County Courthouse—this building is on the National Register of Historic Places, & a group of tireless volunteers are working to restore the building for use as a community center. The group has received grant money from HUD & from the Idaho Department of Commerce, & things are looking quite hopeful for this old building. The building once contained both the courthouse & the jail, as well as all the County offices. Eberle & I have been involved in a couple of performances in the old courtroom, one of which was a screening of Nell Shipman’s Back to God’s Country, with the two of us playing our score live. This was very well-attended & received.)
Council is not an affluent town; it’s a place that has depended on various resource-based industries for an economy, & these industries have all pretty much “gone bust.” When the town was founded, its economy was based on the Seven Devils mining operations, but this industry died out many years ago. There was also the Pacific & Northern rail line (you can read more about the PIN line here), but that also has ceased operations; & the timber industry has seen a marked drop-off over the last 20-30 years. Council was especially hard-hit when Boise-Cascade closed its mill there in the 90s.
(Pic caption: Sadly, a lot of businesses have closed on the main street. Buckshot Mary’s was a marvelous curiosity shop, but the store went out of business a few years back & has yet to find anyone to purchase the property.)
Eberle & I hope you enjoy this short tour of Council; we had a blast wandering around town (especially before the rather raw wind came up) & taking pictures. As the weather improves, our Fine Days Out will of course venture much further afield.
The Ace Saloon—one of the few businesses open on a Sunday afternoon. The Ace is a popular watering hole, & also a karaoke hotspot. The building also houses the Branding Iron steakhouse, & has apartments upstairs.
Another building for sale. Two good businesses tried their hand at making a go of it in this fine old building—a combination café/used bookstore (with quite a nice selection—also a piano & a guitar available for use) & a pizza restaurant that served pretty good pies with interesting ingredients. Even our Bay Area friends spoke highly of the pizzas here. Neither business could make a go of it in the long run, however, & this building also has been on the market for some time.
The wonderful old Zenith sign at Sam’s TV & Electric. Sam's is a going concern, & has been a mainstay for years.
The vet’s office. Of course large animal vets are in demand in any ranching town (tho a lot of ranchers do a good bit of the veterinary work themselves). In our case, the vet is also the mayor of Council; in fact, he performed the marriage ceremony for Eberle & me right in our garden one fine September day.
The People’s Theater was the town movie house, but its doors have been closed for a number of years; at this point, it appears that the building can’t be salvaged—a shame, because the People’s Theater dates back to the silent movie era. The daughter of the local newspaper editor used to play piano for the silents when they played there.
A local outbuilding, in better repair than many, & more decorated than most.
An alleyway running behind the defunct pizza place, past Buckshot Mary’s, & finally into the parking lot of the local supermarket.