Making Friends in the Ghost Town of Silver City, Idaho

It’s been so long since I’ve written that I couldn’t remember what I even talked about last.

“Did I tell them I was moving to Idaho? Or do I need to try to break that news to them slowly?”

spongebob reading confused

A quick re-read tells me you know about the big move, the new home, and even the BRAND NEW JOB (sidenote: I love it).

There are quite a few other topics I should possibly be writing about. Like our Fourth of July in Twin Falls or my parents visit to Boise. But when you’re in love, it’s hard to focus on other things (I promise I’ll cover those topics later).

love gif peanuts

I fell in love this weekend with a tiny little town and its residents.

Silver City, Idaho Photo by Brianna Griff

The school and church in Silver City, ID

Silver City is an old mining town about two and a half hours southwest of Boise. It’s surrounded by not much beyond mountains with names like “Sugar Loaf” and “War Eagle.” Some people refer to it as a ghost town, but it’s hard to call it by that name because it’s teeming with life.

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Established in 1864, Silver City had a population of about 2,500 at the height, had electricity and telephones, and was the county seat of Owyhee County. It also had the first telegraph and daily newspaper in Idaho territory.

Now the town’s population is 12 and has no electricity, relying instead on solar power. Every winter, only two people stay in the town in order to keep an eye on their neighbors homes and possessions, with the only way to get in and out by snowmobile.

The Idaho Hotel is a massive building that sits in the center of town, hanging off the edge of a hill. It’s still a glorious building, even though it was abandoned for 30 years, from 1942 to 1972.

Idaho Hotel in Silver City, Idaho Photo by Brianna Griff

Idaho Hotel in Silver City, Idaho. (We were in town for the Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association meeting)

It’s slowly been revitalized thanks to the dedication of various owners and the local citizens. We met the man who lifted the building eight inches off the ground in order to put in a foundation. People really didn’t think there was an issue with building floors and walls directly on dirt in the 1800s.

The Idaho Hotel Saloon in Silver City, ID. Photo by Brianna Griff

The Idaho Hotel Saloon in Silver City, ID.

Some of the 13 rooms available are beautifully remodeled in time appropriate fashion and have the original furniture. In other bedrooms, you’ll see the original wallpaper peeling off the walls. A hotel employee told us that some people who visit prefer the rooms that are completely authentic, promising a step back into time.

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A door in our hotel room opened into this amazing room that looked as if it hadn’t been touched since the hotel was abandoned in 1942. Which is probably true since we were warned not to step inside because the floor might give way. Another door at the end of the hall showed a lot of light coming in around the cracks of it. Once opened, you saw yet another room showing the test of time.

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The Idaho Hotel isn’t the Four Seasons— it might be better.
Life is lonely when you live in a new city. So when I meet friendly people, I can’t help but feel a little warm and cozy inside.

There’s something even more special about meeting people with whom you feel a kindred spirit. I mean, what kind of person buys a 150-year-old building that’s accessible only by a winding road that climbs up and down mountains and can only be visited eight months out of a year? We would. Absolutely. We may have been scoping out real estate options while we were there.

This beauty is for sale in Silver City, ID. Photo by Brianna Griff

This beauty is for sale. Should we buy it?

Not only do the residents of Silver City appreciate history, but they also appreciate the quiet. We sat on the front porch of the hotel until it grew dark, talking with various hotel employees and home owners. Before we headed upstairs to bed, we came upon a small gathering of neighbors who sat in the hotel’s saloon wearing their cowboy hats, laughing, and drinking wine. These people like each other. And when you’re only electricity relies on the sun and cell phone service is spotty— you’re required to speak to your fellow man. I wanted to pull up a chair alongside them. After all, I do love a good glass of wine and a cowboy hat.

As I mentioned above, we daydreamed about buying one of the properties for sale and trying our own hand at renovation. Not remodeling, as it’s against the city rules to change the outside structure of a building beyond maintenance. This isn’t the kind of place where you bump out the kitchen walls so you can put in an island. This is the kind of place where you imagine what kind of people walked across those sloping floors, and who made the trek up the treacherous rock to attend Sunday services at the church on the hill.

Our Lady of Tears church in Silver City, ID. Photo by Brianna Griff

Our Lady of Tears church in Silver City, ID.

There are a lot of original artifacts to be found in the city as one resident told us that most people who left couldn’t bring their belongings with them. Not surprising since even we were a bit flustered making the drive through the mountains in our truck, I can’t imagine doing the same drive in either a wagon or a 1940s automobile.

The drive to Silver City, ID. Photo by Brianna Griff

We’ll be back to Silver City. We’re planning a return trip as early as September for the “Annual Open House.” This time we’ll get to go inside more than just the Idaho Hotel, we’ll tour and hear the stories behind at least 10 other buildings within the old mining town. For this visit, we’re considering setting up camp on the edge of town at a campsite— just like the original visitors to Silver City probably did more than 150 years ago.

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