The Idaho Building, located on 8th street, is one of six six-story buildings built in Boise around the turn of the century. A prime example of Second Renaissance Revival style, the building now houses many local eateries, among them a Vietnamese Sandwich shop, Thomas Hammer Coffee, and Superb Sushi. However, the building has had a long and varied past. When it was first built, it housed the Republican Headquarters, as well as the offices of the prestigious architects Tourtellotte and Hummel who designed the building, Boise High School, and several other notable Boise landmarks. In 1980, it was also the home to the State Democratic Party.
Today, if one explores beyond the first floor, the building is home to a construction camera company on the second floor and apartments in the upper story. The apartments were added in 2000—before this date the building had never been used for residential housing. The top four floors are now residential. The building’s first floor is also home to a hostel.
The building, today, is 101 years old. In its time, it was one of the most state-of-the-art “skyscrapers” in Boise. It was constructed using steel, cast-iron, and fireproof materials, making it one of the safest office spaces around. It also runs on geothermal heat, which is helpful today in keeping down electricity costs and burdens on the environment.
The Idaho Building was a collaboration of many different people. The person who planned the building was Walter Edgar Price, who held many prestigious positions in the community. He was mayor from 1895-1897, founded the Bank of Star, and had his own real estate business. He hired Henry John Schlacks as the architect. Sclacks had apprenticed under Louis Sullivan, whose style is evident in the building. Schlacks also graduated from MIT. He employed JE Tourtellotte & Company (later called Tourtellotte & Hummel) to help build the Idaho Building.
The building is constructed of red brick, with green and white accents and trim. The windows are very evenly spaced, giving the building a businesslike look. Drawing from classic Second Renaissance Revival style, different stories of the building have different styles and decorations around the windows. The architect makes use of decorations such as horizontal Doric pillars near the entrance and designs in the stonework, as well as the cornice along the roofline. The Second Renaissance Revival style was popular during the time period. It was popularized during the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and was inspired by the architecture of Rome and Florence. It reached the height of its popularity between 1890 and 1920 and was used mainly in banks, courthouses, and other important public buildings.
The Idaho building is essentially a large rectangle, with symmetrical amounts of windows on every side but the front. Its recent occupation has divided it into strange portions; there is now a basement and it is divided into shops rather than rooms, but it is beautiful nonetheless and much of the old architectural features have been kept intact. In the entrance, for instance, the ground is decorated with a mosaic of small green and white tiles. In the foyer, there is also an old golden postbox. Another interesting historical detail is the interesting elevators. Though the old elevators look like they should have been out of commission a few decades ago (one is no longer functional), one only has to walk into one to see what an interesting historical detail they add to the building overall. The walls are covered in mirrors, broken up by horizontal and vertical bars of wood. The effect goes to show what a different time period the building was built in: one where small details and interesting design effects were important to architects and city planners. Further details exemplify this throughout the building, such as the intricate tile patterns on the floor and the cool curved window that surrounds the staircase.
The building is also built with the best materials; the first set of stairs leading to the second floor is made of marble and the baseboards are also marble. However, the building seems in slightly ill repair today. The second flight of stairs, for instance, was made out of oak but now creaks with every step as though the climber were being followed by an unknown assailant. There are sections of the building that are at odds with the rest of the historical style. This building is clearly in need of a little help, as many shop employees are quick to tell outsiders. There is also rumor that the building is haunted, but it has never been investigated or proven.
However, a little disrepair is the least of the problems that could’ve affected the building. In the 1970’s when redevelopment and urban renewal was running rampant, the building was supposed to be converted into a mall. It had been vacant after 1982, but luckily the Parklane Management Company and Ken Howell took over the building. It was then that the apartments were added to top four floors of the building.
For more info, please see http://www.preservationidaho.org/resources/historical-narratives/idaho-building
By Halle Fiderlick