The construction of the Hotel Boise at the corner of 8th and Bannock in 1930 by architect Frank K. Hummel marked the passing of an era. At no other time in America’s history could there have been enough material wealth to produce a structure of such class, distinction, opulence, and luxury. The roaring twenties fervently embraced the French native Art Deco style, which exudes strength and dignity with its powerful vertical lines meant to draw the eyes up toward the heavens. With eleven floors including an octagonal penthouse, the Hotel Boise was the city’s first skyscraper and was dwarfed only by the top of the State Capitol dome. Atop the structure stood a large, neon “Hotel Boise” sign, each letter a massive eight feet tall. In comparison to the hotel’s primary competition of the day, the Idanha Hotel and the Owyhee Hotel, the structure would have been a magnanimous feat of man’s imagination.
Hummel was a member of the prestigious Tourtellotte and Hummel architecture firm, which was at this time operating out of Portland, Oregon. The firm produced several sister buildings to the Hotel Boise, the Baker City Tower in Baker City, Oregon, the Ashland Springs Hotel in Ashland, Oregon, and Gooding Junior high School in Gooding, Idaho. All of these buildings share the distinctive Art Deco traits of the Hotel Boise. The building’s distinctive stone look comes from pour-in-place concrete. The natural pitting and air pockets trapped in the concrete when combined with a certain paint coating give the illusion that the structure is made of limestone. This off beige finish dominates both the exterior of the building as well as the lobby, which is illuminated by archetypal Art Deco style crystalline polygon light fixtures as well as two massive false skylights. The lobby halls are softened by arched gables and the ceiling s supported by sturdy columns whose stoic posture is offset by colorful and ornate stone crowning. The railings surrounding the lobby contain similar designs to those carved in the stonework.
Due to its proximity to the State House, most visiting politicians would stay at the Hotel Boise and as a result it gained great infamy for its involvement in legislative proceedings. At one point, President Calvin Coolidge, friend of big business and corporate power, graced the building with his presence. Currently, the Hoff Building remains the largest supplier of office space to Idaho lobbyists and political groups in the city of Boise. The Idaho Republican Party and Congressman Mike Simpson both occupy the structure. It is debated whether a majority of Idaho’s politics took actually place in the State House itself, or in the lavish rooms of the Hotel Boise. One such room, the Crystal Lounge was infamous for its elegance and provided a more than swanky area for delegation among the government officials. Today, the Crystal Lounge has been renovated into the Crystal Ballroom, inside of which hang the original crystal chandeliers surrounded by the original moulding and woodwork. The space can be rented out, and has a high pedigree of events to its name, from legislative receptions to performances by premier Idaho jazz musician Gib Hochstrasser in his Tea Dances.
The Hotel Boise saw many years of political splendor and accommodated many celebrities, which included songwriter Roger Miller who wrote, “King of the Road” while staying at the hotel. However, all golden ages must end, and in 1976 as the building aged and fell into a state of disrepair the Hoff family, owners of Hoff Co. and Hoff Lumber Companies, purchased the space and renovated it into multipurpose office space. Unfortunately, this renovation eliminated many of the Art Deco styling of the original structure, which gutted a large portion of the hotel lobby and opened the floor into the basement. Previously, the basement had been the service area for hotel staff to cook and do laundry, but the renovation converted it to a below ground office plaza. An enclosed glass elevator typical of the period was added to the center of the building. Up above, the two distinctive new stories were added taking the total number of levels in the structure up to thirteen. Surrounded by floor to ceiling windows and a copper roof, the diamond shaped pinnacle offers stunning panoramic views of the entire treasure valley.
In 1978 the Hoff Building was purchased by EBCO, Inc. EBCO, Inc. worked to restore some of the old Art Deco flavor of the Hoff Building that was lost in the previous renovation. They re-installed many of the original marquees, flagpoles, door pulls, and light fixtures among other things. In 1980 the building was given to Statehouse Square Partners who operated the commercial space until 1983 when the building was sold to California based Tire Distributors Inc. owned by Paul Resnick. With an eye for the past beauty of the building, Resnick sought to complete the work that EBO, Inc. had begun. By repainting the exterior, adding false skylights to mimic those of the original Hotel Boise, replacing the glass elevator with one more akin to the Art Deco style and that features a gold leaf art piece, laying new porcelain tile floors, and reconfiguring the paint scheme, he effectively recaptured the greatness of the Hoff Building’s original skeleton. Resnick’s final addition to the building was to add spotlights that cast a warm glow upon the faces of the structure at night; the Hoff Building is still the only edifice in Boise to do so.
In 2004 Resnick sold the Hoff Building to its current owners, Hoff Building, LLC. These owners, including local area developers Jim Tomlinson, John Comick, Darryl Wong, and Pat March, have kept the building looking fresh by repainting once again, and have made new additions to the building style in the form of several custom area rugs which throwback to those extravagant pieces present seventy years ago in the Hotel Boise Lobby. The Hoff Building is also rumoured to be a hot spot of paranormal activity. The 11th floor, the 5th floor, and the Crystal Ballroom all report to have experienced haunting activity.
Shoemaker, Wendy, Intermountain Commercial Real Estate, and Hoff Building, LLC. “Hoff Building History.” Personal interview. 29 May 2013.