MOVING HISTORY FORWARD J.C. White: A man of action, big ideas

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    White

  • Courtesy photo

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    White

MOVING HISTORY FORWARD

North Idaho has a rich history, which needs to be preserved. To accomplish this, the Museum of North Idaho is raising funds to build a state-of-the-art museum to affix to the J.C. White mansion, which was moved recently to the base of Tubbs Hill.

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You can help by eating at IHOP anytime Sundays in January and February. IHOP will send the Museum 20% of any check generated by patrons who say, “I’m eating here to support the Museum.”

Early Saturday morning, Nov. 16, 2019, a professional house moving crew lifted the former 1903 home of J.C. White off its original foundation at 805 Sherman Ave., and moved it very slowly and carefully to the Museum of North Idaho’s new complex near Tubbs Hill. I have a feeling that J.C. White, the original owner and builder of the historic home, would have approved of this move.

Even back in his college days at the University of Denver, White was comfortable with big ideas and big academic loads. In addition to completing advanced studies in literature, science and the classics, he also became well acquainted with the practical studies, such as business and civil engineering.

After graduation, White moved to Wallace, Idaho and started building a narrow gage railroad for financer, D.C. Corbin. The new rail line connected the Coeur d’Alene mining district with a fleet of steamboats at the old mission, then by water to the docks in Coeur d’Alene and finally by rail on to the smelters in Wicks, Mont. In 1887, when the project was completed, White, along with his parents, started homesteading along Emerald Creek in Benewah County. He was soon hired to build the first state wagon road up the St. Maries River Valley. In 1895, White married Harriet Whitmore from Farmington, Wash., and started a family.

While working on his homestead in the early 1900s, J.C. White received a call from lumberman J.J. Spalding and his son, Harry, with an offer to form a partnership in a steamboat company. White liked the idea and with financial backing from his banker friend William Dollar, formed the St. Joe Transportation Company. The new company launched its first steamboat, the Idaho, in June of 1903. The Idaho had the largest passenger capacity of any steamboat on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Within a few years, J.C. White not only bought out his own partners, but also acquired most of the steamboats on Lake Coeur d’Alene by 1908. White was the undisputed king of water transportation on the lake until the early 1920s, when the automobile and the need for highways was in full swing.

While J.C. White was promoting his own steamboat business, he was a major force behind the creation of the Coeur d’Alene Commercial Club in 1903 and the Chamber of Commerce in 1912. He was on the school board in 1910 when a $45,000 bond levy built a modern high school. White was head of the commission that build the first paved road from Coeur d’Alene to Spokane. When steamboats had seen their last days on Lake Coeur d’Alene, J.C. White was serving as the superintendent of the Idaho Department of Highways.

He moved with the times until his death in 1953. J.C. White was, without a doubt, one of the most active and influential men in the history of Coeur d’Alene.

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