Old Mission State Park

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Coeur d'Alene's Old Mission
State Park
Idaho State Park
Cataldo Church.JPG
The Sacred Heart Church
Country  United States
State  Idaho
County Kootenai
Location Cataldo, Idaho
 - elevation 2,139 ft (652 m) [1]
 - coordinates 47°32′57″N 116°21′40″W / 47.54917°N 116.36111°W / 47.54917; -116.36111Coordinates: 47°32′57″N 116°21′40″W / 47.54917°N 116.36111°W / 47.54917; -116.36111 [1]
Area 18 acres (7 ha) [2]
Established 1975 [3]
Management Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation
Website: Old Mission State Park
Cataldo Mission
CataldoMission interior HABS1958 edited.jpg
Apse, in 1957
Old Mission State Park is located in Idaho
Old Mission State Park
Old Mission State Park is located in the US
Old Mission State Park
Location Cataldo, Idaho
Area 22.9 acres (9.3 ha)
Built 1848
Architect Antonio Ravalli
Architectural style Greek Revival, Colonial, Other
Website Old Mission State Park
NRHP reference # 66000312
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[4]
Designated NHL July 4, 1961[5]

Coeur d'Alene's Old Mission State Park is a heritage-oriented state park in North Idaho, preserving the Mission of the Sacred Heart, or Cataldo Mission, national historic landmark. The park contains the church itself, the parish house, and the surrounding property. Built 1850–1853, Mission of the Sacred Heart is the oldest standing building in Idaho.[6]


In 1831 the Nez Perce Indians and Flathead Indians had heard of the white man's Book of Heaven and wanted more information. They sent six men east to St. Louis with four arriving, and in 1842 Father Pierre-Jean De Smet responded to the request and came to the area. Fr. Nicholas Point and Br. Charles Huet came and helped to pick a mission location. The first was along the St. Joe River, but was subject to flooding. In 1846 they moved it to the current location.

In 1850 the church was taken over by Italian Jesuit missionary Antonio Ravalli, who began designing the new mission building. He made sure that the building was constructed by the Indians themselves, so that they could feel part of the church. It was built using the wattle and daub method, and finished some three years later without using a single nail.

The mission was named after the Sacred Heart Of Jesus and the spot endearingly has been renamed the Coeur d'Alenes Old Mission State Park by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. A misnomer locally is to refer to the whole Mission as the "Cataldo" mission. This term cropped up in the area due to the fame of Father Giuseppe Cataldo, a Sicilian priest born in the village of Terrasini, who spent most of his life in the frontier community and founded Gonzaga University. The nearest town to the Mission is Cataldo, Idaho.[7] In time the mission became an important stop for traders, settlers, and miners taking on the role as a hospitality and supply station. It was also a working port for boats heading up the Coeur d'Alene River.[6]

In 1961, it was designated a National Historic Landmark,[5] and in 1966, it was put on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

In 1976, a major restoration of the church was chosen as Idaho State's Bicentennial Project to celebrate the nation's bicentennial.[7][8]

Mission area[edit]

Example of the newspaper wallpaper and tin can metalwork

Though they had few materials to decorate the church, they used ingenious techniques to beautify it. The walls were decorated with fabric bought from the Hudson's Bay Company and hand-painted newspaper from Philadelphia that Fr. Ravalli had received in the mail. Tin cans were used to create an idea of chandeliers. Both wooden statues were carved by hand by Fr. Rivalli with nothing but a knife and we're intended to look like marble.[7] The blue coloring of the interior wood is not paint but a stain created by pressing local huckleberries into the wood.

Parish house

After being burnt down, it was rebuilt in 1887. It is a two-story building, the upstairs used for sleeping quarters, and the downstairs for daily activities. It contains a smaller chapel, mostly used for daily Mass.

State park

The surrounding property has two cemeteries, a nature trail, and a visitor's center. The site became Old Mission State Park in 1975 through a long-term lease with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Old Mission State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  2. ^ "Idaho State Parks Fast Facts" (PDF). Lesson 6: State Park By Design. Idaho Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "State Lands in Idaho: History". Idaho Museum of Natural History. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Cataldo Mission". NP Gallery Digital Asset Management System. National Park Service. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b "Idaho" (PDF). National Historic Landmarks Survey. National Park Service. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "Coeur d'Alene's Old Mission State Park". Idaho Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c Eberlein, Jake A. Wilderness Cathedral: The Story of Idaho’s Oldest Building, Mediatrix Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0692897652
  8. ^ B. Schroer, W. Everhart, C. Snell (May 19, 1976). "Cataldo Mission". National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. National Park Service. Retrieved October 19, 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cody, Edmund R., History of the Coeur d’Alene Mission of the Sacred Heart. Kellogg, Id.: Progressive Printing & Supplies, 1930.

External links[edit]