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Recovering Forgotten Pieces of Sandpoint History

The businesses, homes, saloons and brothels that lined the Northern Pacific Railroad in Sandpoint, Idaho, bustled during the late 1800s. Shortly after the turn of the century, however, town life along the tracks became a distant memory as the whole community moved west of Sand Creek and became more of a settled town than a frontier way station.

In the state’s largest historical archaeological excavation, University of Idaho alumni, anthropology faculty and graduate students are recovering significant pieces of North Idaho history.

Bob Weaver, a University of Idaho alumnus and historical archeologist with the Environmental History Company in Seattle, Wash., and Jim Bard, a prehistoric archeologist from CH2M Hill in Corvallis, Ore., lead an archaeological project funded by the federal government through the state highway department. In 2005, the Idaho Transportation Department approved plans to construct a byway extension on U.S. Highway 95 east of Sand Creek to address Sandpoint’s serious traffic conditions; byway construction intersected the historic Sandpoint town site. Under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, federally-funded projects that eliminate the opportunity for future study of historic and cultural sites require mitigation.

“Most of Sandpoint’s early history lies in the old town site east of Sand Creek,” said Weaver. “The mitigation process resulted in the most comprehensive urban archeological excavation in the state.”

Weaver’s company, CH2M Hill, and historical experts from Bonner County an