North Idaho’s Automotive History

Museum of North Idaho Photo TRD-2-32

Written by Robert Singletary. Featured in the Nickel’s Worth Jan 1, 2021.

One of the first automobiles in northern Idaho was a 1902 Oldsmobile owned by Fred Landrus, pictured above.  It was used primarily as a race vehicle. 

Most people in the early 1900s considered the automobile a novelty or a sport rather than a serious mode of transportation.  That began to change in 1909 when Henry Ford put his famous Model T Ford on the market. By 1910 there were two automobile dealers in Coeur d’Alene.  Bird and Leash was located at 512 Sherman Avenue, and the Lake City Garage was at 309 Lakeside.

During WWI, cars and trucks had proven to be a reliable form of transportation.  Following the war, Americans fell in love with the automobile, Kootenai County was no exception. By the  early 1920s, there were seven automobile dealers, 13 garages and seven service stations in the county. Although far from ideal, roads in Idaho that were suitable for automobiles were improving.

The Museum of North Idaho is closed for the season. The research library and administrative office is open by appointment only Monday through Friday 9 am – 5 pm. The Museum will reopen to the public on Thursday, April 1st, 2021.