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Metaline Falls

Both a community and a water fall. The waterfall is a cascade with a 19-foot descent; at its foot is Dudenay Trail, one of the most often used of the fur-traders’ trails. David Thompson, who twice made the trip to the falls, recorded the name of the Indians of the region, the Kalispelus.

Metaline Falls occupies a rocky, sloping bench on the east bank of the Clark Fork River. The town was founded in 1910, and the promotion of the Mammoth and Morning mines brought the first settlers to the site. Silver, lead, cement materials, fire clay, and lime were found in this region.

Mining activities, as elsewhere in the state, have known periods of boom and decline.

The Grange and the Nonpartisan League have considerable strength in the Metaline Falls vicinity. It was said that, in its time, the I.W.W. had great influence in this region, even among the farmers.Important plants were those of the Lehigh Cement Company, the Pend Oreille Mines and Metal Company, American Lead and Zinc Company, and the Metaline Mining and Smelting Company. Two hydroelectric plants supplied power for municipal and industrial use. Today Metaline Falls is no longer an industrial center, but has maintained an impressive collection of early twentieth century structures. Part of the Lehigh Cement Company Plant still looms prominently.

Images

Ca. 1960 image of the Pend Oreille River at Metaline Falls.

Source: State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives

Ca. 1945 view of the Lehigh Portland Cement Co., Metaline Falls.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Larson House

Kirtland Cutter designed this home for Lewis P. Larsen in 1910. The house commands a sweeping view of the Pend Oreille River. Its style is reminiscent of English cottages, and bears many of Cutter’s signature touches, including use of local materials. Larsen lost the home, shortly after it was built, to the local cement company. They used it as the home of its resident manager until it was sold to a private party in 1941.

Washington Hotel

Built in 1910 as an early twentieth century working man’s hotel, by Lewis Larsen. During one of his mine’s downturns, Larsen lost the hotel and was evicted from it in 1914. He began building another hotel in 1930, with the objective according to local lore, of putting the Washington Hotel out of business.

Pend Oreille Mines and Metals Building

Built in 1927 by Lewis Larsen, who maintained an apartment on the upper floor for a time, this three-story masonry building reflects an early Modern-style design. It is the last intact property associated with Larsen’s mining ventures. Larsen was born in Denmark and started buying property and mining claims in the area in 1906. He laid out the town of Metaline Falls in 1910. His mining fortunes waxed and waned, but between 1942-1952 his mines produced 20 percent of the nation’s lead and 13 percent of its zinc. The mine closed with a labor strike in 1975. This building served as the company office, but also reflects Larsen interest in high quality architecture.

Metaline Falls School

A Kirtland Cutter-design, this two-story brick Neo-Classical-style school was built in 1912 and served as the first and only public school in town until 1956. It is one of only three Cutter-designed schools in the state. Its public school life ended in 1974, but in 1991 it became the Cutter Theater, a well-regarded local arts and performance space.