The Boise Funeral Home, also known as the Gibson Funeral Home, was an excellent example of a mid-twentieth century funeral home designed to meet the comfort of funeral attendees. True to its Moderne-style architecture, the building features an overall horizontal aesthetic with curvilinear walls, salmon-colored rug-faced brick facing, and very little applied ornamentation. The reinforced concrete building has a flat roof and a rectangular footprint. The building is locally significant in the area of Commerce for its associations with the patterns of providing funerary services during the mid-twentieth century. It was an excellent representative example of the mid-century downtown funeral home property type, which was replaced in the late twentieth century by a shift in funeral home location patterns from downtown to more suburban locations directly associated with cemeteries.
Because of its 1940 construction date, it clearly has associations with the continuation of the Moderne style’s popularity, which began in the 1930s. It represents a distinct and finite time during the mid-twentieth century shift in funeral home design to the Moderne style as the popular choice to reflect up-to-date services. As such it embodies distinctive characteristics of the property type, period of construction, patterns and features common to its style, as well as the individuality and variation of features that occurred within that architectural stylistic classification.
Built in 1940, the one-story building was designed by Hans Hulbe, a prolific Boise architect, small-scale developer, and resident designer for Boise Payette Lumber Company. The original floor plan remains essentially unchanged, retaining spaces specific its historic function: a main foyer, central chapel, family room, and “lumber” rooms, an embalming room with casket and clothing display spaces, a hearse garage and a residential apartment on the full basement level.The original multi-light steel sash windows and glass block windows are intact, as well. The only apparent alterations include the loss of the original entrance visor awnings, the replacement entrance doors, the non-historic entrance canopy, non-historic replacement garage doors, and introduction of decorative aluminum shutters to the primary elevation windows. Though these alterations affect the integrity of materials, combined they do not compromise nor obscure the overall character or design of the building.
The Boise Funeral Home contained approximately 7,900 square feet of space across the main floor and full basement. The main floor contains the original circulation pattern and character-defining spaces associated with the historic funeral home. The double-leaf entrance leads into the main foyer, a rectangular space across the front of the building that directly accesses the chapel and a corridor running along the southeast length of the building. Notable features of the foyer include: the trapezoidal, five-walled space; the curved, glass block window at the northwest corner; and the two rectangular wall openings flanking the doorway leading into the chapel.
The chapel was designed to seat about 175 people. The ceiling and walls retain the original smooth wall plaster lacking any decorative treatment with the exception of a gentle cove at the wall-ceiling juncture. Three, large multi-light steel windows illuminate the chapel along its northwest wall, balanced on the southeast elevation by matching openings into the adjacent corridor. The front (southeast) end of the chapel has canted walls angling inward toward a central wall section containing a segmental arched screen (allowing sound to travel from the music room behind) and crucifix.
Off the southwest corner of the chapel is a small private family room accessible during services. The small, trapezoidal, six-walled space has canted corners and four multi-light steel windows as well as an exterior door and a door to the rear corridor. The room features original state-of-the-art combination light and air conditioning vent fixtures and glazed terra cotta window stools.
The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as a contributing resource in the Boise Historic District. It was demolished in 2017 to make room for a large mixed-use project.
HUD involvement by means of financially backed loans triggered the Section 106 process. This process included the involvement of Idaho SHPO, Preservation Idaho, HUD, and the owner, all of which signed an MOA in Spring 2016 with stipulations including the thorough documentation of the building herein. Preservation Idaho was able to hold a “Goodbye Gibson” tour of the building and a funerary history presentation for the public prior to demolition. The building was also salvaged so that many of the unique features could live on elsewhere.
Read more about the Gibson and the history of funeral homes in Boise on the Idaho Historic Sites Inventory Form