Friday, May 29, 2020
Hailey Historic Plaque Project Stirs Up Emotions
Joan Davies stands outside the Emmanuel Episcopal Church built in 1885.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Settlers were eager to move to Hailey as soon as the townsite survey was completed in April 1881.

But the softness of the roads “forbade the hauling of heavy loads, and not a foot of lumber was to be had,” said T.E. Picotte in the Wood River Times.

When the railroad branch was completed two years later, Hailey boomed as people moved out of tents into homes of wood and brick.

Before the Emmanuel Episcopal Church was built, church services in Hailey were held in a schoolhouse, a theater and a community hall.

The town was intended by its founder John Hailey to be a permanent settlement, not a boomtown that would be here today, gone tomorrow. And no doubt he would have been pleased on Monday as members of the Hailey Arts & Historic Preservation Commission celebrated the town’s history, paying homage to historical plaques that have been installed on 20 historical buildings in Hailey’s downtown.

A small crowd, fortified by cookies baked by parishioners of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, listened as Hailey Major Fritz Haemmerle called it an “exciting project.”

Haemmerle noted that Hailey was considered for the Idaho Capitol in 1882 along with Lewiston, but the two lost out to Boise.

“But Hailey remains a beautiful old town,” he added.

“I’ve seen what happened to other cities in the valley and I made it my platform when I ran for mayor to understand what Hailey is about and protect it at all costs,” he added. “I hope Hailey stays exactly the way it is. We can’t stand still—we know that. But keeping old buildings is so important. Investing in them, not tearing them down, is what makes a great community.”

Susan Giannettino, among those on the commission, said that each member of the commission researched various buildings as they prepared the plaques.

“I talked with people who had very emotional memories of learning to read in what was a very tiny library when it was in what is now the Episcopal Church’s thrift store. They remembered reading Nancy Drew books there,” she said. “Before that, it was an assay office, which was critical to the mining community.”

Hailey Historian Rob Lonning said the four corners of East Bullion Street and North Second Avenue—all purchased within a year of Hailey’s founding--is the closest thing Hailey has to a historic district.

A church with a steep gabled roof and Gothic arched entry—the oldest in the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho—occupies one corner. It boasts one of the best stained glass window collections in the Northwest, said Hailey Historian Joan Davies.

The Wood River Land trust occupies the Fox-Worswick House, which was built by a Civil War veteran and is perhaps the oldest residence in Hailey.

 City Council Member Martha Burke lives in the white two story-house with its traditional gable-front. It was built by Civil War veteran Eben S. Chase, who was appointed a U.S. Federal Marshal for the Idaho Territory.

And the Masonic Hall now occupies the site of a home that belonged to miner William Tecumseh and Frances M. Riley. Their home burned in 1916 but many still call it Riley’s Corner.

“The Masons had had to move from place to place because the buildings they were in kept burning down,” said Lonning.

Atkinsons’ Market occupies what was once a livery stable where horses were kept, he added.

Lonning noted that the Wood River Valley was considered a tourist destination even before Sun Valley Resort came into being.

The robber baron Jay Gould, who might have been the richest man in the world in the late 1800s, came here shortly after Hailey was founded with his wife and two daughters, a cook, a doctor and others in his entourage as part of a pleasure excursion.

“The train that brought him here not only ferried sheep out, but it had two cars named Peter and Paul that brought church services to the valley,” added Davies.



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