Coeur d’Alene’s ‘City Within A City’ - Part 4

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  • Zigmond Toth in front of his service station and confectionary, circa 1930.

  • 1

    The Toth residence in the foreground before it was remodeled into the Doghouse, circa 1930.

  • 2

    Elsie’s Dakota Cafe at 218 E. Appleway, circa 1965. Harvey and Elsie Mathews were the owners.

  • 3

    This map shows Fourth Street on the right intersecting with Appleway in 1958, along with the businesses that populated that area at that time. F. Sunset Bar; G. Wiloacres; H. Elsie’s Dakota Cafe; I. Abbey’s/Mathews Chevron; J. Drive Thru grocery store; K. Elkhorn; L. John’s Bargain House; M. Mack’s Tire service; N. Lake City Motors; O. Mike’s Place; P. North Star Service Station; Q. Leahy’s 300 Club.

  • 4

    This Google map satellite image shows the roads and businesses along Fourth Street and the east end of Appleway in 2018.

  • Zigmond Toth in front of his service station and confectionary, circa 1930.

  • 1

    The Toth residence in the foreground before it was remodeled into the Doghouse, circa 1930.

  • 2

    Elsie’s Dakota Cafe at 218 E. Appleway, circa 1965. Harvey and Elsie Mathews were the owners.

  • 3

    This map shows Fourth Street on the right intersecting with Appleway in 1958, along with the businesses that populated that area at that time. F. Sunset Bar; G. Wiloacres; H. Elsie’s Dakota Cafe; I. Abbey’s/Mathews Chevron; J. Drive Thru grocery store; K. Elkhorn; L. John’s Bargain House; M. Mack’s Tire service; N. Lake City Motors; O. Mike’s Place; P. North Star Service Station; Q. Leahy’s 300 Club.

  • 4

    This Google map satellite image shows the roads and businesses along Fourth Street and the east end of Appleway in 2018.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in a series about the history of present-day Appleway Avenue and the businesses on Fourth Street leading up to Appleway.

The section of Coeur d’Alene, named the Sunset Heights Business District in 1948, included the businesses on Appleway Avenue and along what was then a curve onto Fourth Street.

So much has changed over the years that I have included a labeled aerial photo from 1958 to help locate the buildings.

Wiloacres gardens (just below “G”) and the Sunset Tavern (just above “F”) were covered in a previous article. Wherever possible, I have included the usual “then and now” information.

The Dakota Cafe – 212 Appleway. Right of “H”

I am not completely sure when this cafe was built. The earliest mention of it is 1949 when the Coeur d’Alene Press carried an advertisement in August for Tommie and Cliff’s Coffee Stop located next to Abbey’s Chevron (letter “I” on the photo). In the business directory for 1949, the owner is listed as Clifford Iverson.

Henry Abbey, who owned the gas station, probably built the cafe. In 1950 the cafe and gas station were sold to Harvey Mathews and his wife, Elsie. Interestingly, Marie McLeod and her business partner, Fran, cooked at the Dakota. Marie would go on to buy her own cafe, Marie’s, which was discussed in an earlier story.

In 1952, the cafe was known as the Dakota Coffee Stop. Since Elsie Mathews always operated it, it was renamed Elsie’s Dakota Cafe around 1958. The ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press on April 4, 1958 listed, “Now Open Sundays…Easter Sunday Menus…Try Our Easter Breakfast.”

In the 1960 “What to See and Do” visitor guide to Coeur d’Alene, Elsie’s Coffee Stop Cafe was capitalized on the gas station next door: “Welcome Tourists! Eat and Gas Up With Us Today!”

Elsie’s was open every day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and offered steaks, seafoods and, of course, chicken. Most folks in the area recall the cheap eats at Elsie’s. Around 1965, Harvey Mathews (Elsie’s husband) retired and his Chevron station was torn down. Elsie continued her little diner for a few more years.

Mr. Mathews died in 1969 and that seems to be when the cafe also closed. By 1970, the space was occupied by a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Currently it is Atilano’s Mexican Food.

Toth/Abbey/Mathews’ Service Station – 218 Appleway. Right of “I”

This gas station sat just to the east of the Dakota cafe, and it has quite a history. The first listing of the Liberty Service Station is in the 1927 business directory showing it was owned by Zigmond and Rosa Toth. Mr. Toth, according to his obituary, had come from Hungary in 1906 and worked for the B. R. Lewis Lumber Company, which later became the Blackwell Lumber Co. During that time, he started the service station.

Toth’s home was close to the station - just to the east along Appleway. In later years, his house would be remodeled into the Doghouse Tavern. By 1931, it was called Toth Service Station and early photos of the station show it also was a confectionary.

By 1938, there were some cabins in the back called Ten and Ninety-Five Junction Camp. Also, around that time, Mr. Toth became disabled — probably due to a stroke since he had heart issues — and he leased the station to various people such as C. S. Nielson and H. F. Smith.

In 1945, Mr. Toth sold the gas station to Henry and Florence Abbey. Mr. Toth passed away in August 1946, and his wife, Rosa, died in 1966.

A December 1946 advertisement in the Coeur d’Alene Press lists the station as “Abbey’s Chevron, Gas, Oil, Groceries and Cabins.” As previously mentioned, a cafe also popped up next door around 1949.

The Abbeys did not own the station for long as Harvey and Elsie Mathews bought it, and the cafe, in August 1950, as previously mentioned. Now the property became known as Mathews’ Chevron and Elsie’s Dakota Cafe.

Mathews remodeled a bit in 1953 and, in 1957, added a trailer court in the back in addition to the few cabins. Mathews retired in 1965 and the station was demolished and a new Chevron station owned by Doug Higley was built a little further west - right next door to the Sunset Tavern.

Harvey Mathews died in 1969. Elsie continued to run the cafe for a few more years. Both places were located about where Atilano’s Mexican Food is now.

One of my favorite stories comes from someone who worked at Doug’s Chevron washing cars for customers. When Elsie’s cafe was torn down, the Chevron station was right between the Elkhorn, discussed later in this article, and the Sunset tavern. In addition to the good tips from patrons of both establishments, it also saw a lot of loud discussions and a lot of punches thrown outside. Doug’s Chevron is also gone, once located about where Wendy’s is now.

Stark’s/Rutten’s/Fox Drive In Grocery – 217 E Appleway. Just below “J” For nearly 15 years, this building served as a small grocery store. In August 1945, Clarence W. Neider purchased two acres of land and moved in a Farragut Naval Training Station building he had purchased from the Evergreen Floral Company. His plan was to enlarge and remodel it into a drive-in lunch and confectionary with tourist cabins behind the property.

He hoped to have it open by April 1, 1946. A little less than two years later, after some remodeling, William G. Stark, former city councilman and no stranger to the grocery business — he worked with his brother, Ernie, at the A and H Market on Sherman Avenue — leased the building from Neider. Stark’s Drive-In Grocery opened July 26, 1947. It had ample parking surrounding it since Neider was building his tourist cabins in a semicircle around and behind the store.

Mr. Stark was also president of the newly formed Sunset Heights Business District. The store advertised groceries, meats and a refrigerated vegetable and dairy case.

In February 1950, Wilfred J. “Babe” Rutten purchased the business from Mr. Stark, renaming it Rutten’s. Previously, Mr. Rutten was in the meat and grocery business in Coeur d’Alene for about 25 years.

In 1961, Rutten sold the business to Comer P. and Mary Fox. For some reason, by 1963, the business was gone and the building was vacant. By 1966, United Blue Ribbon Food service was there and the Neider cabins were apartments.

A paint store occupied the space in 1970. By 1991, the building was gone.

We will continue east on Appleway and along the curve and onto Fourth Street in the next and final part of this series.

•••

This story and photos were first published in the Museum of North Idaho’s 2017 newsletters and are shared with Coeur Voice readers courtesy of Tom Flanagan and the Museum of North Idaho, 115 Northwest Boulevard, Coeur d’Alene. For more information about the museum, visit www.museumni.org.

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