Nine miles south of Salmon, on Highway 28 in Baker, Idaho is the setting of the large red building known by many as the Baker Hotel.

Baker was once a thriving little town with its own store, post office, Lion Tamer’s Club, opera house (a building used as a dance hall at one time), a power plant that served the Harmony Mine and a blacksmith shop with a livery stable. Though Baker was a busy location, the Baker Hotel had very little business because of its close location to Salmon.   

When the Baker Hotel was built in 1905, transportation was by horse, buggy, and stagecoach. Stops were built along the way to let people rest, and enable the coach to pick up or drop off other passengers and change horses. If an individual were traveling by horse, this was also a place to change to a fresh horse then return later to retrieve your own horse. The Baker Hotel became one of the stops along the Red Rock Stage lines.

Between 1910 and 1940, before the automobile became popular, the main form of transportation to and from Salmon was the Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad (G & P). The G & P carried freight and passengers between Salmon and Armstead, Montana. Armstead was the connection point with other trains.

During this time, the hotel was the G & P depot in Baker. The train would stop at the Baker Hotel every day, except for Sunday, and drop off the mail and other supplies needed around the Baker area. The hotel served the people using the railroad as a place to get a good meal! Most of the people who used the facilities of the hotel were employees of the railroad and the hotel also had a saloon room where the men could go in and drink. (Remember, at this time, women were not allowed to go into a saloon for a drink.)

In 1942, the hotel changed hands and the rooms were rented as apartments. The owners also sold apples, eggs, and milk to the people of Baker to pay property taxes.

During the 1960′s, the house changed hands again and became a pack-and-guide outfitter’s dwelling called the River Bend Lodge. This was used by many men who had been out hunting and were looking for a warm bed and good grub. In fact, the food was so good the owner’s wife opened up her own little restaurant in the hotel and was known for her pies. People would come from all over to have a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. (Sharon Solaas tells about the couple who had been coming for pie for more than 25 years and just walked right into her home one afternoon not knowing it was now a private residence.)

Sharon and Roger Solaas bought the property in 1968 complete with everything that was inside. While many improvements to the building were needed, there was a stove left with the year 1905 engraved on it. The stove had been used through all the past years and is currently being used by the Solaas family.

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