Our building was the Idaho Black History Museum located in Julia Davis Park. The museum proves Idaho’s rich foundation of history, diversity, and “reinvention”, being the oldest black history museum in the Pacific Northwest. The building was originally constructed as the St. Baptist Church in 1921, which was founded by Reverend William R. Hardy in 1908. In 1982 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Idaho Black History Museum, a non-profit corporation, was established in March 10, 1995 and is an organization established to educate individuals about the history and culture of African Americans, with special emphasis on African Americans in Idaho. The Museum presents exhibits and provides educational and community outreach programs including lectures, films, workshops, literacy programs, and musical performances.
The Museum itself is currently housed in what used to be the St Paul Baptist Church. The Church, constructed in 1921 is one of the oldest structures built by Blacks in the state of Idaho and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The original Church was donated to the Idaho Black History Museum, Inc. by the St Paul Baptist Church Congregation in 1994 when they vacated the original building for a larger facility.
Boise City Parks and the Recreation Commission had discussions of moving the building to Julia Davis Park in Boise. They later gave authorization for the move forward to relocate the building pending City Council approval on May 21, 1998. On June 9, 1998 Boise City Council voted unanimously to authorize the Idaho Black History Museum to move the museum to Julia Davis Park. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on August 18, 1998. The building was relocated to Julia Davis Park on September 8, 1998, with renovations beginning in October 1, 1998. The Grand Opening for the new museum was held on March 8, 1999.
The Museum shares the eighty-six acre Julia Davis Park neighborhood with other popular institutions, including the Boise Art Museum, Idaho State Historical Museum, Zoo Boise, the Rose Garden and the Discovery Center of Idaho. This was definitely an appropriate location for the museum as it is surrounded by other significant museums to Idaho’s history.
The building did lose a piece of its architecture when it was relocated to Julia Davis Park. The original building contained a kitchen underneath what is left of the building today. There used to be stairs leading down to the kitchen right as you walked in the front doors of the building. However when the building transitioned from a church to a museum, the kitchen was no longer needed. Its unfortunate they did not keep that part of the building, as the kitchen would have supplied that much more architectural significance.
We decided that the architectural style of the Idaho Black History Museum was probably more colonial even though it was built in 1921. It has the typical white clapboard all around the outside, and it shows similar siding on the inside with some original oak clapboard along the walls. It doesn’t have any shuttered windows, but it has these beautiful stained glass windows. After interviewing Bob Olson we found out that those windows were actually ordered from a Sears Roebuck catalog, which we thought was pretty interesting since they looked pretty authentic.
The Museum also has that rectangular shape to it, and it is very symmetrical with matching amounts of windows on both sides. A weird touch that the building has is a brick chimney, we didn’t find out if that was original to the building or not, but it definitely stood out among the plain, white style of the building. Another interesting feature of the building was the front doors. We found out that they weren’t original to the building, but they were hand carved and placed on the building when it was moved to its current location.
The style of this building was very rare for 1920’s Boise. It was built as a church originally and you can tell that they didn’t have a lot of money to spend on it. It was one of the only black Baptist churches in Boise at the time and it didn’t have to be this huge fancy building. In a way, this building shows how much black people of Idaho were discriminated against. They didn’t have a lot of money to build the church and the building didn’t really have any character in the beginning. The only expensive part of the building was the stained glass windows, and even then they were ordered from a catalog so it wasn’t that expensive.
African Americans just wanted a place to practice their religion and this building is what they came up with. It was one of the only public places where any race was allowed in Boise at the time. Idaho was very bad when it comes to discriminating against others, especially blacks. That is probably why they turned the church into the Idaho Black History Museum. They wanted to remind Idahoans that there were black people in Idaho, and even if they weren’t treated well they were present and they did some amazing things.