It was the highlight of the 1892 social calendar: a Washington’s birthday dance at the Spinks Hotel. Mr. Spinks, the genial proprietor and “champion yarn-spinner of the Panhandle,” issued an open invitation to Sandpoint residents. All were welcome, he announced in the newspaper, as long as they promised to stay sober.
That, apparently, was a tall order.
The dance was a rousing success. All of the ladies were “beautiful, graceful dancers and accomplished conversationalists,” the newspaper enthusiastically reported. The music, however, was only “fair.” The lively crowd took a break around midnight for supper at the Central Hotel restaurant and then returned to the Spinks Hotel to continue dancing until 3 in the morning.
The newspaper listed the names of all of those attending the dance. They came from as far away as Spokane, Post Falls, and Granite. There were married couples, single men and women . . . but not Mr. Spinks. He apparently did not follow his own admonition about drinking and the newspaper wryly noted the absence of his name in the list of attendees, saying, “It will also be remembered that Mr. Spinks, in issuing the notice for the dance, announced that all who would keep sober could come.”
Mr. Spinks was not alone. The newspaper also gossiped that “Mrs. Long, Mrs. Spinks, and Mrs. Weil, for some reason or other, seemed to be having an awful good time.”
The enjoyable Washington’s birthday dance was not the only such event that year. In fact, the early residents of Sandpoint and the surrounding area seemed to need very little excuse to hold a party or dance. Whether a holiday, birthday, or just a vacant building with a smooth floor, these folks knew how to have fun.
The Fourth of July, of course, was a favorite holiday. Delia Holton, who arrived in town with her family in the spring of 1886, fondly recalled her first Independence Day in Sandpoint. The men helped to clean up an industrial barge used for hauling crushed limestone while the women packed up baskets of tasty food. Once everyone in town had climbed aboard, a small steamboat pulled the happy celebrants across the water. One man played his accordion while everyone else danced for hours under the sunshine of that early July. “It was Sunday, too,” Mrs. Holton recalled, “and I felt guilty. I kept wondering what my mother would say if she could see me, but there were so few ladies that if one refused, it would spoil the fun for the rest.”
Another time James Judge and his wife invited friends to their home in Priest River to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary in April 1892. The Fred Taylor string band of Sandpoint played while couples danced in the elegant home. They paused for dinner at midnight before resuming the fun. By then, with their initial shyness gone, everyone danced “until old Sol showed his face over the Cabinet mountains announcing that daylight had come.” A chartered steamboat returned the weary revelers to their homes in up and down the river.
Vacant buildings proved irresistible for diehard dancers. A former Sandpoint post office attracted more than twenty local residents in May 1892 for a “social hop.” They gathered on short notice and danced until 2:30 in the morning, breaking only for dinner at the Central Restaurant. About a week later close to fifteen couples held a quadrille party in the same space, dancing until daylight.
Even a disastrous fire in June 1892 led to a happy outcome for the unstoppable dancers of Sandpoint. The flames broke out in the Spinks Hotel kitchen and soon spread, consuming the hotel, Harry Baldwin’s livery stable, and Ignatz Weil’s home, general store, and wholesale liquor warehouse. Fortunately the last building burned slowly enough that residents were able to salvage most of the contents. Weil rebuilt rapidly and christened his new store building with – you guessed it – a dance. The newspaper noted that guests enjoyed the “excellent music and glassy floor and all went home highly entertained.”
“Dance at Spinks Hotel,” Pend d’Oreille News, 13 February 1892, 5:3; “The Event of the Season,” Pend d’Oreille News, 27 February 1892, 4:2; Valle Novak, “Pioneer family celebrates 100 years in Sandpoint,” Weekly Spotlight, 29 July 1986, 4; “Great Doin’s at Priest River,” Pend d’Oreille News, 23 April 1892, 4:3; “Dance In the Old Postoffice,” Pend d’Oreille News, 21 May 1892, 4:1; “A Quadrille Party,” Pend d’Oreille News, 28 May 1892, 5:1; “Disastrous Conflagration,” Pend d’Oreille News, 11 June 1892, 5:1; “Ball in Weil’s New Building,” Pend d’Oreille News, 16 July 1892, 5:3.
Top illustration: “This Victorian Life,” http://www.thisvictorianlife.com/uploads/4/3/0/9/4309858/9627533_orig.jpeg.