There are many thoughts that one has when first seeing Wallace, Idaho.
Most will only glance at Wallace below as they zoom through on the interstate above.
Some will think, “Oh look at those cute little houses perched on the cliff!”
Others will wonder if there’s an Applebees they can stop and use the restroom at.
No one will think the town is the center of the universe.
Because no one thinks like that.. unless you’re from Wallace.
The answer is enough to charm me into wanting to be a resident.
Back in the day, Wallace was the self-proclaimed Silver Mining Capital of the World (obviously there is a history of titles of grandeur around here).
And then rather rapidly, the town went from being famous for mines to infamous for environmental clean-up.
Wallace was on the fast-track to two potential ends, one involved being bulldozed to make way for the interstate and the other was to be labeled as a Superfund site.
Neither option appealed to locals.
To save itself from being bulldozed, almost every building in the center of town was labeled as historical, offering increased protections.
To save itself from being known only as a lead-laced Superfund site, they needed a bigger idea…
I guess in Wallace, Idaho, when life gives you lead-laced lemons, you make lemonade.
You think Beyonce made Lemonade, but that’s only because you’ve never heard of Wallace.
So, anyway, in comes the EPA and announces a soil/water/lead love triangle. That devalues land spells economic disaster for a town already struggling with a crippled mining industry.
But there was a hitch...
The problem with this declaration, is that the EPA couldn’t prove whether lead in water was due to continued mining operations, or if it was naturally occurring.
Like a rumor making its way through a middle school, Wallace's reputation was severely tarnished by the lead issues.
Since neither theory about the contaminant could be disproved, they eventually decided to accept both and increased the superfund site from 21 square miles to 1500, meaning Wallace was now a Superfund site. And at the same time not proving the source of the local lead issues.
Note: Superfund sites are not sexy investment options to business and homeowners.
It seemed like a fairly damning blow.
But what Wallace learned from this wasn’t about lead, they learned about the theory of probabilism which basically means this- if you can’t prove something isn’t true, it must be true.
They couldn't prove the lead wasn't naturally occurring, so it must be naturally-occurring, right?
What else could not be proven to be untrue?
And what if the citizens of Wallace could use this argument to their advantage?
As you may recall from high school history, lead-lined pipes and drinking cups were thought to have contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire.
However, lead in the water and soil seem to be contributing to the rise of the Wallace Empire.
The idea came from a philosophical conversation in the local bar called the Smokehouse, as most great ideas do.
The town of Wallace, Idaho was the center of the universe.
In that environment, the idea that a town with a population of less than 800 people is the center of the universe not only seems plausible, but likely.
So, after a few too many in the Smokehouse, the Mayor decided the next course of action was to call some attention to the discovery of Wallace as the Center of the Universe.
He called news stations from three neighboring states and got into the center of the street outside the Smokehouse, declaring Wallace the Center of the Universe and stating, “if it can’t be disproven, it must be true.”
I mean really, that’s what this guy did! What kind of mayor does that?
One you really must re-elect.
They physically marked the location of the Center of the Universe (it's official now).
To this day, a manhole cover marks the Center of the Universe that’s visible from the Smokehouse.
Now, if that’s not an admirable mayor, I don’t know who is.
If Wallace were a celebrity, it would be Britney Spears, AKA the Comeback Queen.
Since then, Wallace has kind of taken this cookey vibe and run with it.
Not only is Wallace the Center of the Universe, they are also the only town in the US with a Prime Minister.
I’d like to point out that Prime Minister Shaffer appointed himself to the position. He has also continued to hold the position for 16 years unopposed. Some say it’s because no one else wants the title.
I am more of the belief that if someone who drinks lead-laced water has the type of self-image that causes him to name himself the town Prime Minister, a sane person would probably not want to mess with that individual.
I am also of the mind that if I ever move to Wallace, I’d like to grant myself the title of Duchess of the Center of the Universe.
Just when you think you’ve heard enough of this town and see all there is to see (10 minutes), you may also start noticing that it looks oddly familiar.
Maybe you saw it in Dante’s Peak, which was filmed there in 1997. That’s right, Pierce Brosnan was there.
They got Pierce Brosnan!
What is it about this town?!
So, next time you are zooming through the panhandle of Idaho on I-90, take a moment and appreciate the little town that could, Wallace, Idaho.
They are an inspiration and a conundrum.