By BRIAN WALKER
COEUR d'ALENE — Woody McEvers remembers the days when he'd serve coffee in front of his Rustler's Roost restaurant on Sherman Avenue to Fourth of July Parade revelers.
He'd have fun with colorful comments on the readerboard and looked forward to trick-or-treaters popping into the cafe.
"Everything was built to last with stainless steel," he said of the structure constructed in the 1970s that was home to a series of restaurants starting with Sambo's and also included Jonesy's and, most recently, Java on Sherman.
Before the food and coffee era, the site at 819 E. Sherman next to the White House venue center was home to lumber tycoon and Spirit Lake founder Frederick Blackwell in the early 1900s, said historian Robert Singletary. It was later occupied by the Wood family, including former Idaho Congressman and doctor John T. Wood and his son and former longtime Kootenai County Coroner William T. Wood.
Kerri Thoreson, a Post Falls City Council member, lived in the three-story, 26-room home when her parents, Ron and Alice Rankin, leased it from the Wood family for more than a decade. The Rankins were the last family to live in the home before it was dismantled.
"When you live in a house that large, your slumber parties are epic," Thoreson said. "The home had a good heart. You knew a lot of life had been lived in that house. You felt like you were taking a step back in time."
She remembers the antique furnishings inside, the carriage house and circular driveway outside and watching teens cruise Sherman from the porch.
Now the page is turning again for the location as the former restaurant building is being demolished for a residential project aimed at complementing downtown activity.
Chad Oakland, a principal in Miller Development Group and owner of Northwest Realty that will market the project, said five two-story townhomes will face the Sherman side of the site and three single-family homes will front the Lakeside side.
"Downtown real estate is absolutely on fire, and this will be a natural transition to the activities," he said. "It's a very desirable location where people can walk to downtown from. The single-family foundations were poured this week on the north side."
The city's Design Review Commission will consider the townhomes on Jan. 25 at noon at the Coeur d'Alene Library's Community Room. The entire project is nearly an acre.
The townhomes will have detached two-car garages in the rear and office/studio space above them, according to a project narrative submitted to the city. Each unit will also have its own rear yard between the house and garage.
Both McEvers, a Coeur d'Alene City Council member, and Thoreson said they are excited about what the site will become.
Thoreson said she's pleased that a family with a history of local ties is involved in the next chapter for the property.
McEvers, who now operates Rustler's Roost off U.S. 95, said he understands that times change.
"I get it; it's economics," he said. "Dinner is a tough racket and downtown changes. I have a lot of memories there, but you also want someone to make it and for it to be something."