Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bonneville Hotel was built in 1926-1927 at a cost of $335,000 by the
Idaho Falls Community Hotel Corporation, a group of 421 local citizens. The corporation was conceived by the Chamber of
Commerce and led by O.A. Johannsen, a prominent Idaho Falls attorney. It was created to bring a first-class hotel with
convention facilities to Idaho Falls. When built, the hotel had a large central lobby, two dining rooms, a ballroom, and a
sample room. The architectural firm of H.L. Stevens Co. of San Francisco designed the hotel in the architectural tradition of
Italian Renaissance. H.L. Stevens Co. specialized in design of hotels with less than 50 rooms. The designs were configured in
a rectangle or H shape. At least 15 of these hotels are on the National Register of Historic Places.
A new special edition of eight pages on the Bonneville Hotel was printed in the Times-Register for the Grand Opening on May
31, 1929. The special edition told the story of the Bonneville and described the interior appearance and features.
The Bonneville Hotel is a visual as well as economic landmark in the business district of Idaho Falls. The original building,
dating from 1927, was seen by people of the time as an important element in the architectural character of the city. It is an
excellent example of Renaissance Revival style, a style that is rare in Idaho Falls. The Salt Lake Tribune printed the
following in a description of Idaho Falls in January of 1937: “Focus a camera…and you glimpse in the lens a group of structures
that form a city mall of imposing architectural wealth. The Bonneville County Courthouse, LDS hospital, the structurally
beautiful Bonneville Hotel, a modernized U.S. post office, and many fine business buildings.”
In order to meet the needs of city growth, the hotel was remodeled in 1951. A compatible five-story addition was made to
the rear of the building and the interior was also updated. Two new commercial spaces were installed on the ground floor.
The entire structure was fireproofed. It represented a conscious effort to provide a luxury hotel for city visitors in a period
when Idaho Falls was undergoing rapid growth. In 1984 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The building is described on the National Registry Nomination as follows: “The Bonneville Hotel is a five-story brick veneered
hotel building with sections of red tiled mansard roof. The pale to dark burnt red brick is laid in common bond. The building
is rectangular with an inset section above the first floor on the south façade. There is a denticulated cornice above three
floors of six-over-one double-hung sash windows, and beneath those a second story of one-over-one double-hung sash
round-arched windows, a denticulated and molded band of stone or concrete, and them a lower story of storefronts, most
of them altered. On the south exposure, some balconettes surrounded by low relief sculpture and outset brick. The south
façade has eleven bays and the east has ten. Walls extend above the mansard on the east and at the southeast and southwest
corners to form tower-like massings. Upper stories appear to be intact except for the easternmost windows on the fourth
and fifth floors which have been single glazed.”
When constructed in 1927, the hotel contained 74 rooms. In 2016 it contained 63 low-rent apartments, two commercial
spaces/apartments and a vacant main level restaurant/bar. There were also apartments located on the west side main level.
The building had fallen into significant disrepair. The apartments’ occupants were largely transient residents. The apartments
were not well kept and the abuse by the tenants, minimal maintenance and numerous insensitive remodeling of the
apartments and main level brought the interior of the building to a very unhealthy and poor condition. The exterior of the
building had lost its grace and architectural presence and prominence in downtown Idaho Falls. The exterior brick was soot
covered, the main level storefronts had been covered and overuse of signage had diminished the architectural integrity of
the building. The Bonneville, however, was still regarded as an important landmark, but had been severely compromised.
It was clear that the Bonneville was in a compromised condition. The current use and lack of maintenance was continuing to
compromise this historic landmark building. As the Idaho Falls downtown/civic center continued to see new investment and
revitalization the Bonneville continued to detract from the positive improvements within the downtown. The Bonneville, like
many large landmark buildings in our communities, had come into a condition of serious disrepair, non-code compliance, and
a significant liability to the community.
In 2016, the City of Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency moved to change the course for the Bonneville. An RFP was issued
soliciting developers to assist in acquisition and development/renovation of this landmark building as a
residential/commercial space and restoring the building to its earlier vibrant position on Constitution Avenue in downtown
Idaho Falls. The Housing Company was selected to renovate the building. The architectural and construction firms on the
project were Myers Anderson Architects and Bateman-Hall, Inc. The residential units were occupied in the Fall of 2019. In
the spring of 2020 the project will be complete.
Neglect and significant remodeling over the years had compromised the historic integrity of the Bonneville Hotel. Many
historic elements were lost or significantly damaged due to neglect and previous remodeling.
Since the beginning of the project, it was the intent of the Owner and Architect to follow the Secretary of the Interior’s
Standards for Historic Rehabilitation. Before acquisition and renovation, the building was heavily occupied as and SRO,
neglected and abused. Now that it is complete it is once again a vital contributing facility economically and socially in the
Idaho Falls Downtown Business District. The work was consistent with the historic nature of the building and its original
purpose and position in the community.
Many of the architectural and historic features of the building had been compromised, particularly the exterior lower façade
and all interior spaces. Elements of remaining integrity were preserved and incorporated into the project. As a Historic Tax
Credit project the renovations followed the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.
The work included complete renovation of the interior of the building with 35 apartments and 4,500 square feet of
commercial space on the ground floor. While the new apartments are of contemporary materials and finishes the historic
detailing and finishes were integrated in the new work. The lower level of the building includes a laundry and tenant storage
The exterior main level of the building had been infilled and covered up with stone, granite panels, and wood siding.
Storefronts, windows and doors had been modified significantly. The coverup materials were removed exposing significantly
damaged conditions beneath. The brick walls, storefronts, bulkheads and cast trims were cleaned, repaired and restored
consistent with the original configuration and appearance of the original building.
The exterior upper level walls of the building were dirty, had miscellaneous abandoned hardware and signage still remaining
on the building. The brickwork needed repointing in some areas with some brick repair needed as well. All upper level
windows were in significant disrepair due to abuse, lack of maintenance and weather degradation. The cast concrete trims
were in poor condition with missing elements. The Spanish clay roof tiles on the south and east facades were in disrepair
with missing pieces. The brick and cast concrete trims were cleaned, repaired and restored. The Pantiles were
repaired and missing pieces replaced. The upper level windows were replaced with in-kind 6 over 1 double hung windows.
all metal rails, balusters and decorative elements were repaired and restored.
The adjacent parking area and public walks were repaired and upgraded. The obtrusive utilities in the north alley were
The building once again is serving in a positive way. It is occupied and managed in a healthy manner with a good mix of
individuals and families. It is owned and managed by The Housing Company who is invested in the building currently and for
the long term. The beauty and contributing presence on Constitution Avenue has been restored. With the conditions of the
building as they were, it took a leap of faith and a huge commitment on the part of the City of Idaho Falls Redevelopment
Agency to its rightful position in the community. Myers Anderson and Bateman-Hall accepted the challenge in the design
and construction work required to properly restore the Bonneville to a condition of prominence, that would inspire and
provide continued social and economic benefit to downtown Idaho Falls.
Written for the 2020 PI Orchids and Onions Award ceremony