Historic photos by ISHS.
The Adelmann Building, constructed in 1902, was owned and built by a German miner and Civil War veteran named Richard Adelmann. Designed by Campbell and Wayland, the building can be found in downtown Boise on the corner of Idaho Street and Capital Boulevard. The building was expected to be built for $10,000, but after its erection, the price had risen to $30,000.
At its construction, it began as a one-story building, but the structure was such that more stories could be added without the need to alter the ground floor. Eventually, a second floor was added, and the building was separated into four different sections.
The Adelmann Building had many different tenants, including a Laundromat, various shops, and other businesses. Most notably, the Adelmann Building was home to Fong’s Tea Garden, The Elk’s Fraternity Headquarters, and an automobile repair shop belonging to Richard Adelmann, called Stearn’s Motor Car. Currently, the Adelmann building houses a French restaurant called Cafe de Paris, Starbucks, a bar called Cool Hand Luke’s Steak House and a basement. Each business has a unique interior design that illustrates their different atmospheres.
Cafe de Paris, found in the back left corner of the building, embodies the French culture that the restaurant emulates; it has stone columns and arches and uses bright, natural lighting. Starbucks is the perfect example of a stereotypical coffee house, and is found in the front left corner. Cool Hand Luke’s has a very distinctive design, and can be found on the bottom right side of the first floor and continues to take up the entirety of the second floor. It attempts to give a modern yet western feel, which it does very successfully.
Another interesting feature of the restaurant is the pagoda turret. According to one of the waitresses of Cool Hand Luke’s, the turret is the best place to eat. The circular structure provides for a more private dining experience, and the window overlooks a good portion of downtown Boise. The final section, which is currently closed to the public, is the basement. The basement is comprised of two more sections, one being the bakery for Cafe de Paris. The second section is currently under construction to become a bar.
The building itself has a very distinctive structure, using many different styles. These styles include Romanesque, German, and Chinese. The first, Romanesque, is evident mostly in the windows. Most of the windows have arches, exemplifying the Roman-like influence. The German style can be found along the top of the building in the stepped brick pattern and the sandstone trim. The German influence was provided by Richard Adelmann. Finally, the Chinese style is found in the Pagoda turret on the front corner of the building, and was influenced by the many Chinese tenants. A mural can be found on the side of the building which was painted in 2000 by the Letterheads, an international sign painting company. The mural took three days to paint and is based on an old advertisement. The advertisement was for Stearn’s Motor Car Company and was painted to represent the old automobile repair shop that had previously been in the building.
The Adelmann building has many fascinating stories to go along with its distinguishing structure. One of the most recent happened five years ago at a restaurant/bar called the Loft, the previous occupant to Cool Hand Luke’s. A fight broke out in the bar, and in front of the building one of the fighters was stabbed.
Another story, which had been told by one of the Starbucks employees who had heard some stories about the building, is about the basement. Evidently, at some point in its history, the Adelmann building housed a brothel in its basement. It was said that one of the prostitutes belonging to the brothel was attacked and eventually murdered by a drunkard. After interviewing some employees from Cool Hand Luke’s, one of the waitresses reported noticing that the restaurant had reorganized itself from one day to the next.
The final story involves the Pagoda turret which was added in 1937. In the 1950s, the turret was covered with Chinese characters for the Chinese restaurant, Fong’s Tea Garden. Fong’s Tea Garden had dominated this portion of the building for 50 years. Upon its opening, the Idaho Statesman said that “Ben Fond didn’t say ‘velly proud’ or ‘velly nice’ because he was brought up in Boise and went to the public schools here.” The article goes on to mention the significant American influence on the inside of the building when compared to the nearly all Chinese cuisine. Unfortunately, in the 1990s, the characters were removed. A huge controversy arose after this had been done. The people who were removing the characters believed that they were restoring the building to its original structure. Those who opposed the removal of the characters believed that the characters had become a major part of the building’s history and thought that it was deprecating to remove a piece of the building’s history. In the end, the characters were removed and the turret is now an orange color.
Through its different occupants and unique architecture, the Adelmann building has become a colorful downtown location which will remain apart of Boise’s charm for years to come.
Addition (10/30/2014): The 1993-94 remodel for the Adelmann Building was completed by local architecture firm, CSHQA, which links it’s legacy to the original architects of the building, Campbell and Wayland.