In the early 1900s, Frederick A. Blackwell, a very successful lumberman from Pennsylvania, and his son, Russell, visited North Idaho to check on reports about abundant timber resources in this part of the country. His trip confirmed that those reports were true. He immediately formed a lumber company and began to buy large tracts of timber land in the area. He purchased property on East Sherman Avenue and built two beautiful houses, one for himself and one as a wedding gift for Russell. Within a few years, the Blackwells became one of the most prosperous and well-respected families in Coeur d’Alene. Blackwell was more than a successful lumberman, he was one of the most diverse businessmen in the history of Coeur d’Alene. In 1909, the Spokane Chronicle listed Frederick Blackwell as one of 17 millionaires in the Inland Northwest.
In addition to developing the largest timber and lumber empires in North Idaho, Blackwell was also involved in railroad building, tourism, banking and recreation. In 1903, he played a major role in building the Coeur d’Alene & Spokane Railroad Company, an electric line from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene. In 1907, he built the Idaho & Washington Northern Railroad, serving his lumber company in Spirit Lake and his cement plant in Metaline Falls. It provided an excellent passenger service, making connections to Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. In early 1905, Blackwell and a group of local businessmen formed the Coeur d’Alene Investment Company, which built the Hotel Idaho in Coeur d’Alene. Also in 1905, Blackwell built one of the most beautiful parks in the Inland Northwest on the Coeur d’Alene waterfront. Blackwell Park later became the Coeur d’Alene City Park. In 1906, he established the American Trust Bank, which was located in the Wiggett Building on the corner of Fourth Street and Sherman Avenue.
After building the Panhandle Lumber Company in Spirit Lake in 1907, he purchased an entire section of land near the mill and created the Spirit Lake Land Company, which sold lots, created utility systems, and laid sidewalks for a new town. The new town, called Spirit Lake, was incorporated on Jan. 14, 1908.
After several years of declining health, Frederick A. Blackwell died on Dec. 8, 1922, two weeks before his 70th birthday. He indeed was a man of vision. Those visions helped build a city.
On Thursday Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, regional historian Robert Singletary will present a lecture on the life and times of Frederick Blackwell. The program is part of a lecture series sponsored by the library and the Museum of North Idaho. It is free to the public.
Dine at IHOP on Sundays through February and mention the museum and IHOP will donate a portion of your purchase to the museum. Support local history by becoming a member of the Museum of North Idaho with a membership of $25, $50 or $100 to P.O. Box 812, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816-0812. www.museumni.org.