Happy to Be Small
A country town in the middle of two cities is an apt description for the small town of Dalton Gardens.
Sandwiched between popular resort city Coeur d’Alene to the south and Hayden to the north, the Idaho city of Dalton Gardens offers a change of pace from the bustling communities surrounding it. Instead of shopping centers and tourists there are horses and chickens. There aren’t any sidewalks and streetlights, but there are one-acre lots and homegrown gardens.
By Natalie Hollingshead
Photos by Kevin Kiernan
“It’s just like the country, and we like it that way,” says Mayor Steve Roberge who moved to Dalton Gardens in 1989. His great-grandparents settled in the area in the early 1900s and six generations of the family have called Dalton Gardens home.
When it was officially registered in 1960, it was known as Dalton Village — and the population hasn’t changed much since. In 1959, there were less than 1,100 people who called it home. In 2016, there were around 2,200.
“It hasn’t grown that much and a lot of people move here for that reason,” Roberge says. “We like the atmosphere here. I can go a mile to the west right into town and that’s plenty close for us.”
Room to Grow
It isn’t likely the town will get much bigger. Dalton Gardens’ borders encompass 2.5 square miles, with neighboring cities to the north, south and west, and national forest to the east.
There may not be room for the town to grow in size, but homeowners have plenty of room for growing a garden or spreading out however they’d like. Each lot in the town is required by code to be at least an acre — although a residential planning quirk means that isn’t always exactly the case, says Pam Jank, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Schneidmiller Realty in Coeur d’Alene.
“A Dalton acre is not really an acre,” Jank says. “When they laid out the community they laid it out in acres and then put roads through it. So sometimes a Dalton acre could be 0.8 acres.”
Full acre or not, Dalton Gardens is a desirable zip code because of its close-but-not-too-close location. One-acre (or thereabouts) lots sell for between $100,000 and $120,000, a high valuation for the north Idaho location. There are approximately 1,000 homes in the town, filled with a mix of young families, empty nesters and retirees.
“You can get a brand-spanking new home in Hayden for the price you’re going to pay for a 1970s home in Dalton but you’ve got the land,” Jank says. “Everyone would rather live in Dalton than in a little postage stamp lot in a subdivision, and you pay more for that.”
Indeed, resale isn’t an issue in Dalton Gardens. The city’s main concern is maintaining the status quo. That and controlling the deer population that comes from nearby Canfield Mountain to feast on homeowners’ gardens.
A Rural Lifestyle
At least Canfield Mountain provides picturesque views and plenty of recreation. The Canfield Mountain Trail System was designed for motorized trail bikes and bicycles, but hikers are welcome too. There are horse trails nearby and an equestrian center — although many townspeople keep horses on their property. Two nearby lakes, Lake Coeur d’Alene and Hayden Lake, and four ski areas make for year-round recreation.
There isn’t any shopping or dining in town, so residents must drive — or ride a bike — to Hayden or Coeur d’Alene. But Roberge says the people in Dalton Gardens don’t mind the inconvenience.
“Everything we need is in the other town, and it’s just a great lifestyle here,” he says. “A lot of people would like to live here.”