Saws Go Silent In Coeur D’Alene

COEUR D’ ALENE — Coeur d’Alene, the city built by the giant saws of the lumber mills is losing its last mill.

Stimson Lumber announced Tuesday the saws at the Dearmond Mill, built in 1960 along the banks of the Spokane River, will go silent in 60 days. Another mill owned by Stimson Lumber in Montana is also shutting down.

At one point several mills defined the Coeur d’Alene landscape but now the last one is closing because of the sagging housing market and employees are producing only half the lumber they used to.

Two-thirty marks the end of the shift at the Dearmond Mill and Charlie Hodge, the head of maintenance at the mill, is one of the first to call it a day. Hodge has worked at the mill for 23 years and co-workers are like family to him.

“I like working here. A lot of friends here, great place to work, a saw mill is a great place to work,” he said.

On Tuesday Hodge found out that he and 71 other employees would be leaving the mill for the last time in two months when the mill closes its doors. Employees say they’ve known for years this day would eventually come.

“Well, maybe just a little stunned but then relief because now you know when we’re done,” Hodge said. “When you have that hanging over head for awhile and it’s taken away find relief. I’m not bitter or nothin’.”

“It had to happen sooner or later it’s just location, they want it for college, want it for the town,” mill employee Harold Matthews said.

Plans call for the land to be transformed into to an education corridor. North Idaho College, University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College are located on both sides of the mill.

With the decision official, employees now figure out what’s next.   

“Retire,” Harold Matthews said. “I’m 58. That’s old enough.”

“I really don’t know, yet but one door closed, another one’s open,” Charlie Hodge said.

Employees have the option of relocating to other mills and will also be getting severance packages.