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History of Coeur d’Alene

DURING THE EARLY 1800s the British Northwest Fur Trading Company began to establish fur trading posts in the Inland Northwest. Some of the Frenchspeaking traders began to use the French words “Coeur d’Alene” as a nickname for the Schitsu’umsh people whom they traded with. In French “Coeur” means heart and “Alene” means “awl”, a sharp pointed tool used to pierce leather. In other words, they were known as sharp traders with hearts like the point of an awl. Within a few years the Schitsu’umsh people became known as the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and the large lake which was the center of their homeland became Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In 1878, General William T. Sherman established a military fort on the northern shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, which he named Fort Coeur d’Alene. While the fort was under construction, a small village began to develop on the eastern edge of the fort. That was the beginning of Coeur d’Alene, the City by the Lake. The name of the fort was later changed to Fort Sherman, which is now the location of North Idaho College.


The city of Coeur d’Alene was incorporated in 1887. Early visitors found Coeur d’Alene Lake to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. As the railroads and steamboats provided transportation points between the Coeur d’Alene Lake, the St. Joe and

The first steamboat on Lake Coeur d’Alene was the Amelia Wheaton. Built for the military at Fort Coeur d’Alene by Peter Sorenson a Norwegian boatbuilder from Portland, Oregon.

Coeur d’Alene Rivers, it soon became a destination for thousands of tourists. Camping, hunting, boating and fishing were popular pastimes. Lodges, hotels, campgrounds, attractions, and the transportation industry developed to accommodate the influx of visitors.

In the early 1900s a major timber boom caused the population to increase 16 fold in a period of 10 years. The city expanded from a small frontier village into the political and business center of Kootenai County. It became the county seat in 1908.

Playland Pier opened in the summer of 1942 and operated from Memorial Day to Labor Day providing entertainment for the 40,000 enlisted men and 12,000 officers at Farragut Naval Base.

History in the Making, a New Home for the Museum of North Idaho

The historic J. C. White House, built in 1904, edged through the streets of downtown Coeur d’Alene from 8th Street and Sherman Avenue to its new home at the base of Tubbs Hill, adjacent to Coeur d’Alene City Hall. The home will now serve as a centerpiece for the Museum of North Idaho, including libraries and exhibits and will offer programming to help newcomers and longtime residents gain an understanding of our history. The goal of an ongoing fundraising effort is to raise $4 Million for the renovation of the White House and construction of the east lower level, which will provide a total 11,500 square feet of space. The new museum will offer dynamic and interactive exhibit spaces and outdoor gathering spaces with an overarching water theme. Currently, the museum occupies a 4,371 square foot building that is scheduled for demolition. Learn more at museumni.org.

The Museum of North Idaho is located at 115 Northwest Boulevard, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814. Admission: Adults $5.00, Children $1.50. Upon arrival please request a 1-hour free parking voucher from the desk. The Museum is open April 1- October 30, and is wheelchair accessible. Spring : April 1 - May 29• Tues.-Sat. •11am - 5pm Summer: May 30 - Sept. 5 • Daily • 11am - 5pm Fall: Sept. 6 - Oct. 30• Tues.-Sat. • 11am - 5pm