When Bob Hopper bought the Bunker Hill mine in 1991, he began sorting through old company paperwork.
One memo made his jaw drop.
In 1975, the gears on the No. 2 hoist were serviced, and at the bottom of the note, a Bunker Hill executive had written the following:
“By the way, after 52 years of continuous operation, the hoist showed no appreciable signs of wear.”
It’s hard to tell which is a bigger source of pride to Hopper - that the hoist was a product of American ingenuity, or that it was manufactured in 1923 in nearby Wallace at the Coeur d’Alene Hardware and Foundry Co.
“That hoist represents an engineering and quality of workmanship,” said Hopper, now restoring the No. 2. “The Coeur d’Alene Hardware and Foundry Co. represented the epitome of that philosophy.”
Only a few old-timers will remember the foundry from its Silver Valley days, even though it manufactured mining equipment - rail cars, hoists, and tools - that was shipped all over the world. It was founded in 1884 in Murray, Idaho by a pair of miners who had abandoned their claims. The list of its subsequent owners and financiers reads like a “Who’s Who?” of the Inland Empire mining elite:
Amasa B. Campbell. John Finch. Eugene Day. William C. Taylor. Ellis Hale.
The company survived its move to Wallace, three fires, and the turbulent economics of the mining industry before again changing its name to The Coeur d’Alene’s Co. in 1960, when it moved to Spokane. It continued to manufacture mining equipment until the early 1970s - when that part of the business fell victim to the virtues Hopper extols.
None of the company’s hoists ever wore out, said Coeur d’Alene’s Co. President Jim Coulson. And as new mining ventures declined in number, so too did demand for the equipment.
“Nearly every mine in the world has a hoist made by the Coeur d’Alene Hardware and Foundry Co.,” Coulson said.
Today, the Coeur d’Alenes Co. remains a steel distributor and heavy plate manufacturer and is located in the Spokane Industrial Park.
The company no longer manufactures mining equipment, but is among the region’s largest steel wholesalers, with more than 1,000 customers in the western U.S.
, DataTimes MEMO: See related story under the headline: Reviving ‘Uncle Bunker’