Property Type:
Neighborhood: West End  |  County: Ada  |  Building Status: Public  |  Year Built: 1902  |  Architectural Style: Eclectic
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Many people living in Boise most likely don’t know much about the history and architecture of this wonderful city. Taking the time in this project to acknowledge the beautiful buildings throughout Boise made us realize just how amazing Boise’s architecture is. One of these great buildings is Cole Elementary School. Located at the corner of Cole Road and Fairview Avenue, this old schoolhouse certainly has its history.

Constructed in 1888, the first Cole Elementary was among alfalfa fields and barns, in an area known as “The Bluffs.” Orrie Cole, a sheep rancher, gave a portion of his land and built the one-room timber schoolhouse. Cole Elementary was the first elementary school in Boise, and soon grew and needed an extended area. This pushed the removal of the school from the Boise Bench area to a different location and the building of the second school in 1902 in its current location. The architectural firm of Campbell and Wayland in Boise designed this original building. Later, the gymnasium was constructed by Tourtellote and Hummel. Cole Elementary has lived through a century and has experienced so much of history, not only Boise’s but also America’s; this is what makes Cole so unique.

Not only the history of Cole Elementary made it so special, but also the architectural significance of the building. The original bell tower, atop the school, was a shining memento of the school. It was restored decades later in 1991, along with a roof replacement. Cole has also kept its original fancy carved wooden supports across the roofline, the original arched entrance on the East side of the school, and the underground tunnel. The underground passageway, constructed in 1941, connects the school’s basement to the gym, in order to keep kids dry during a rainy day. The patio, once a part of the original school structure that faced Cole, had also been changed; now a fire escape. These trademarks of the school and its uniqueness are tokens of how memorable the school has been to people living in Boise over the many years. Although the original structure, with its minimal changes, still exists there have been classrooms built, the construction of the gymnasium, and the newest stucco exterior, hiding the first red brick appearance. Cole Elementary is the oldest building in the district which has not undergone major alterations to the original structure.

The architecture of Cole Elementary can it into many architectural stylistic categories. It is an old, two-story, four-room, “box-type” brick schoolhouse. The newly built gym would be considered art deco because of its “modern” attributes, and how it fit into the eccentric style of the time period it was built in. The vertical accents in the front of the building had motion and move the eye of the view up, creating “vertical thrust.”

Art deco is a very progressive style, leading into contemporary looks and buildings that represent a time of change. The main structure of Cole Elementary has a Romanesque feel to it, with the arched doorway, arched windows on the second level, and the large rectangular shaped windows on the first floor. Romanesque architecture is the term used to describe the architecture characterized by semi-circular arches, and evolving into the Gothic style, characterized by pointed arches, beginning in the 12th century. Both of these types of arches are found on Cole Elementary School, providing yet another architectural style. The hipped roof and the square nature of the building create an American Foursquare style building. While the bell tower, originally a large cupola in the center of the original building, resembles American-Georgian style architecture.

Though Cole Elementary is a historic structure in Boise, it is no longer in use- all the doors and windows have already been boarded up- and the land it sits on is up for sale. This means that the school will most likely be torn down and replaced with something much less historically significant or architecturally interesting. This is very upsetting for many people, especially those who attended the school- many of whom still live in Boise and frequently see the building where they attended school. Now, all they, and everyone else who recognizes the importance of Cole Elementary, can hope for is that part of the building will be saved and possibly turned into a museum, library, etc. in order to preserve the memory and architecture of the oldest school in the Boise area.

Update: the building was demolished in November of 2009.