Three original 8" x 10" black and white photographs, one captioned in the negative "Burke, Idaho 1923." Photographer unknown. Very good.
Burke, Idaho was first settled in 1884, after significant deposits of lead and silver were found in the area. The town became famous for being built in such a narrow valley that its main hotel had railroad tracks, a street, and a stream passing through the lobby. The precarious setting left the town vulnerable to natural distasters, one of the worst of which was a fire that broke out on July 23, 1923. According to a local newspaper, the fire was caused by a spark from a locomotive, and "over fifty business houses of Burke's main street were destroyed and practically all of the residences are gone. Four hundred and forty miners were forced to flee to the depths of the Hecla lead and silver mine. A high wind rendered dynamite ineffectual. All of the mine company’s buildings on the surface were destroyed. The damage is estimated at a million. Six hundred people are homeless." These striking photographs, one taken shortly before the fire and two in the immediate aftermath, show tremendous devastation. But there was still silver to be had, so the town was rebuilt--this time with most buildings set further back from the railroad tracks. The silver was finally mined out in the 1970s, and today Burke is a ghost town.