May 15, 2013 in City

Historic watering hole lost to overnight fire in Mullan

Silver Dollar Bar, former miners union hall – ‘good-old landmarks’ – go up in flames in Silver Valley town
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Gary Garitone as he watches the smoldering remains of the Silver Dollar Bar and an adjoining miners union hall in Mullan, Idaho, on Tuesday. “That’s the end of the good-old landmarks in Mullan,” he added.
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More than a dozen bars used to wet the whistles of Mullan steelworkers in the heyday of mining – now there is one.

A fire burned the rickety Silver Dollar Bar to the ground early Tuesday morning, taking an old miners union hall and railroad car with it.

Wind kicked up embers and high-reaching flames as several fire districts including volunteers attacked the blaze. The fire could be seen from Lookout Pass, casting a fiery glow over the Silver Valley town, resident Gary Garitone said.

He walked outside with his dog around 3 a.m. and saw the fire less than a block from his home.

“It was like daylight out there when that thing was burning,” Garitone said. “Those buildings are so old, and with that dry timber – the flames were higher than the telephone poles.”

He took the water hose to his shingled roof because “there were so many cinders in the air.”

It took firefighters two hours to extinguish the flames, according to the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office.

The bar had been closed for business, opening occasionally for class and family reunions, Mullan historian Butch Jacobson said. The United Steel Workers Local 5114 moved out of the connected building 10 years ago after another fire damaged it.

The bar likely was older than the city itself – built before the turn of the 20th century, Jacobson said.

Miners flocked to the solid wood bar every night during the town’s golden years, before the closure of several mines. The old-timers drank and played pinochle in a 1912 railroad car behind the bar, Jacobson said. That relic burned Tuesday as well.

At one point, you could buy your fishing or hunting license, plus your gear, at the Silver Dollar.

“If you were a kid, you could buy a pop too,” Jacobson said.

A Japanese flag adorned the wall, pinned there after World War II. A buffalo head and three stuffed golden eagles guarded the bar from the wall above, likely killed in the 1930s, Jacobson said.

Miners could hear sports stories firsthand from baseball players visiting from Montana.

However, as the mines closed, so did businesses. Buildings went vacant and were demolished, leaving several gaps throughout Mullan.

Hecla Mining reopened Lucky Friday Mine in February, giving about 300 workers employment again after two miners were killed and seven injured in three separate events in 2011, previous news reports said.

“There was a lot of hope the mine was going to get the bar going again,” Garitone said.

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