The man behind Hamilton House

| October 30, 2020 1:00 AM

With all the recent articles about saving the Hamilton House, it is time to learn about the person who built it — Boyd Hamilton, second mayor of Coeur d’Alene.

It was 1903. The small town of Coeur d’Alene was beginning to grow, and the second bank, the Coeur d’Alene Bank and Trust, was about to open. A bright and energetic young man, Boyd Hamilton, accepted the position as manager and cashier. He was just 26 years old.

Soon after arriving in Coeur d’Alene with his wife, Alta Browne Hamilton, Boyd assumed civic duties, becoming an active member of the Commercial Club, the Boat Club, the Elks, and city baseball. By 1907 he was on the Coeur d’Alene City Council and served on the committee for the construction of the new City Hall. In 1908, he ran for mayor on the Progressive ticket and was elected as Coeur d’Alene’s second mayor, 1909-1911.

During his tenure as mayor, not only did he have the usual mayoral responsibilities, such as appointing the chief of police and fire chief, he faced a few challenges unique to this period of time. There was the matter of cordwood being stacked on the sidewalks, the issue of a cow grazing in the cemetery, installation of posts on sidewalks to prevent teams of horses from running across them, and disagreements as to whether a fire car or a horse-drawn fire wagon was better.

Besides working on improvements to the city’s street and utilities, near the end of his term Mayor Hamilton wanted to see the city cleaned up, so he issued a proclamation on April 5 1910, that for the next week the citizens were to rake up the rubbish and filth that had collected in alleys and around their premises and then had the street department collect it.

In 1908, he hired architect George Keith to build the house that sits at 627 Government Way, and two years later, built the house near Sanders Beach that is known as the Gray’s House, designed by Kirtland Cutter and listed on the National Historic Registry.

His social nature and financial adeptness saw that his banking career would flourish. In addition to his position at the Coeur d’Alene Bank and Trust, he was a director of the Columbia Valley Bank in Wenatchee, president of the Idaho Banker’s Association (1909) and vice president of the American Bankers Association (1910). Additionally, he was president of Square Deal Mining in Wallace and director of Post Falls Land and Water. By 1923, he held the position of assistant manager of the Bank of Italy in Los Angeles.

Boyd Hamilton was born in October 1877 to a Colfax, Wash., farmer. He graduated from Washington State College in 1900 with a degree in electrical engineering, and while at WSC, Boyd was the captain of the WSC football team. It was here that he met his future wife, Alta Browne, daughter of Spokane millionaire and empire builder J.J. Browne. He died in Los Angeles at the age of 52.

The Museum of North Idaho continues to seek all possible resources to fulfill its mission to “Move History Forward.” As we move into the last quarter of this year’s capital campaign, please consider donating to the building fund.

Deborah Akers Mitchell

Coeur d’Alene