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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

#3600 - Bux's Place, Challis, ID - 8/20/2018

Bux's Place, Challis, ID

When I first found a photo of the sign outside of Bux's Place I knew I had to go there. It obviously had some age and character, but I wouldn't know how much until I visited. The bar has been Bux's since 1949, owned by Willis and Sylvilla Buxton until they sold it to Tony and Madge Yacomella in 1981. The sign had just gone up the previous year, but the bar has been there far, far longer. Once you step inside you clearly see the rounded log structure of the place, though the clapboard and shiplap facade is also original, dating back to the Central Hotel, constructed in 1877. The back section was added in 1879 and the current window treatment in front is said to date back "only" to the 1930s. (IHS

It is, in fact, the only commercial log structure that has survived since the 1880s in this old mining town -- there for the boom times of the late 1870s, surviving the fire of 1894, and also the earthquake of 1983. Challis's current population of around 1,000 people is actually not all that different from the mining boom years, reaching 614 in 1880, dying out with the mining, but climbing back up over 800 in the 1930s as the economy shifted to agriculture and lumber. It's enough people to make it the largest city in Custer County, Idaho, and in one site's rankings placed 9th in the 10 Most Redneck Cities in Idaho -- with Bux's being all the article talks about. But if so, I'll take it. The beer was cold and the people friendly.

The Idaho historical society has described the surroundings thusly:

"The town of Challls lies at an elevation of 5,280 feet in Round Valley, a circular yalley formed by a bend of the Salmon River as it flows through the southern Salmon River Mountains. To the north the town abuts a bluff of volcanic tuff and columnar rhyolite. U.S. Highway 93, which connects Mackay and Salmon, runs near the eastern edge of town. To the west the valley narrows into Garden Creek Canyon, where cottonwoods are abundant. North, west, east, and south, the valley is surrounded by the rugged, pine-skirted Salmon River Mountains and Lost River Mountains. In this physically isolated and sparsely populated area, the town of Challis grew up as a trade center for mines farther north and west in the central Idaho mountains." (IHS)

Patrons Suzie and Crockett, owner Madge
Bux's Place, Challis, Idaho

The first Europeans, appear to have passed through the area in fur trading expeditions in 1822, with prospectors beginning to arrive in 1864. "The settlers who had come to Challis by 1880 were a predominantly Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern-born group, but a substantial number were immigrants from England, Ireland, and Western Europe. There were, in addition, eight Chinese households. As one would expect, men outnumbered women five to one, and there were few children. Slightly less than half of the population were miners; the remainder were occupied with services and trades necessary for the subsistence of Challis and the surrounding mining towns." (wikiwand)

The Yacomella family still own and run Bux's, Tony and Madge's son Bill the manager, and Madge still pouring drinks when I was there. The large space serves as an unofficial community center for Challis, hosting birthday parties, memorials, and weddings -- with limited gambling events that would be a lot more common, I was informed, "if not for the goddamn Mormons." The "Testicle Festival" celebrating "Rocky Mountain Oysters" is a highlight. Madge is said to be "the true matriarch of Challis" (SVM), and as people relate past hijinks of people riding horses and motorcycles into the bar "There is a general acknowledgement that such tomfoolery doesn’t occur when Madge is around."

The interior is highlighted by ancient murals of mountain scenes on the upper walls, old taxidermy big game heads and antlers, a wood stove, and the aforementioned friendly people. Another highlight is the beautifully ornate, antique Brunswick back bar. It is both living history and a charming place to visit, not to be missed in any central Idaho roadtrip.

321 Main St, Challis, ID 83226 - (208) 879-4464
Est. 1949 - Building constructed: 1877
Previous bars in this location: Central Hotel Saloon, Challis Hotel Saloon
Web site: facebook 
Articles: sunvalleymag - yelp - wikipedia - national historical places description 

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