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Reminder to all: history matters

This place matters. That’s the theme for National Historic Preservation Month once again this year. Preservationists at the National Trust for Historic Preservation must have kept this same theme because it is powerful in its simplicity – and because it’s true.

The month of May, National Historic Preservation Month, is a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of our historic buildings and the vital part they play in our sense of community. It’s a great time to remind ourselves that this place matters; that these places matter.

Without our historic buildings, without the brick buildings down on Main Street, without those turn-of-the-century homes across the tracks, and without those weathered barns and outbuildings that gather around the hardworking farmhouses that still dot the prairie, we would not be the same community.

Each year Rathdrum’s third-graders learn about our past through a walking tour of our downtown area. Although guides offer information, the buildings tell the story. They tell the story of our past: of our early importance, our tragic fires, and our resilient spirit. They tell what building materials were on hand, what styles were popular, and what kind of workmanship was available. These places matter.

It’s important to get this message out this month, because it is only through educating our community about the importance of our historic properties, that we can interest those who own them to care for, and protect them. With no enforced rules or regulations in place to protect these buildings, this education is vital. Making others aware these places matter, will go a long way toward their protection.

National Historic Preservation Month is also a good time to celebrate successful renovation stories, and the ongoing renovation of Rathdrum’s Old County Jail is a great preservation story. The building served Rathdrum faithfully as jail when we were the county seat, and later as a library and a maintenance warehouse for the city.

Now, thanks to the generosity of a family that supports preservation projects, the city of Rathdrum, and the Rathdrum/Westwood Historical Society, the building is returning to a place of prominence on Second Street. This will hopefully become the centerpiece for, and catalyst to, a new community park.

In recognition of the project, the public is invited to a Renovation Celebration, according to Ellen Larson, president of the Rathdrum/Westwood Historical Society. The event is being held to celebrate the renovation of the 1890 jail building, and to thank longtime area residents Don and Dorothy Jacklin for their generous financial support for the project.

It’s a chance, according to Larson, to learn about the renovation. It also gives a chance to thank the Jacklins, the city of Rathdrum – who donated the building to the historical society – and the hard working members of the renovation committee.

Guests attending the event will be allowed to tour the building, hear of its many uses throughout Rathdrum’s history, and learn about the renovation project from members of the renovation committee.

Members of Lakeland Junior High’s Strengthening Talents, Reasoning and Intellect through Varied Experiences program are working on a presentation to introduce Lulu Bradbury, one of Rathdrum’s pioneer women who traveled the Mullan Trail, and lived on the Rathdrum Prairie until age 96.

While renovation of the brick building has been under way for some time, recent exterior changes have drawn a lot of local attention. No one quite remembers when (or why) the tower, or cupola, on the front of the building was removed, but with blueprints of the original building in hand, restoration of the missing piece became feasible.

City administrator Brett Boyer says he thinks the building will become a “point of pride for the city,” and recognizes its importance in preserving a part of Rathdrum’s history. This place matters.

Contact correspondent Mary Jane Honegger by e-mail at Previous columns are available online at