Established on the corner of Idaho and 13th St, the historical Idaho Power building stands today as an important view into Boise’s past. Built with the Art Deco Style by the Wayland & Fennell firm, the original Idaho Power building has lived a relatively simple life, with little contention over its presence. Primarily, the original building was established to help create a centralized workspace for a consortium of five electricity companies based throughout Idaho, and Oregon. This consortium had recently built up electrical assets, including hydroelectric prospects on the Snake River, and was in need of a headquarters to conduct further business without having to suffer from the effects of a far-reaching employee base. Construction was completed in 1932, when the crowning adornment, an aluminum company plaque, was installed onto the façade. Because of its aluminum plaque – aluminum symbolized modern industrialization in the 1920s and 1930s, and efficient, geometric, and mechanical architecture style, the original Idaho Power Building was hailed as a landmark Boise architectural icon when it was completed. Consequently, preservationists contested the 50-foot extension installed by Idaho Power onto the original building. Because of the seamless integration with the hallmark style of the 1930s and 1940s, the new section of the building was almost indistinguishable from the original, which upset historical views of the building. The extension was ultimately kept, and remains today. However, unlike the situation involving the extension, Idaho Power was praised for taking recent measures to restore the original building circa the construction of its new offices. After all, extension or no extension, the building still remains an important architectural figure in our community, even in our sesquicentennial.
The Idaho Power Building soon underwent another major change in 1990, when construction for the new Idaho Power headquarters broke ground, opposite the original building, at 1220 Idaho St. Constructed on potentially the largest single slab of concrete in Boise, the new building overcame ground-water seepage and its former confines to tower above its contemporary predecessor. Idaho Power recognized that its enterprise had grown to the point that its former headquarters could no longer sufficiently house its employees. The new Idaho Power Building, not only assuaged that issue, but also allowed the former building to remain in use for further office space, appeasing both preservationists and advocates for modern architecture. Cline Smull Hamill Quintieri Associates (CSHQA) completed construction on the current Idaho Power Company complex in 1992. The 240,000 square foot building outstripped the original 50,000 square foot one, which allowed for the consolidation of multiple departments and more employees. While constructing the new building, CSHQA simultaneously conducted renovations on the old building, and even linked the two with an underground passageway, which remains today. Interestingly, the old building was updated with an Art-Deco style that was intended to identically duplicate that of the original building. This mindset created an interesting challenge for construction workers, who needed to work with various attitudes of concrete, design patterns, and techniques in order to re-create an architectural masterpiece. Although Idaho is not known for its “skyscrapers”, the Idaho Power Company headquarters still retains its split position as the 10th tallest building in Boise (it ties the Chase Tower Plaza at 160 feet). When construction is completed on the Zions Idaho headquarters in 2014, in what was formerly known as the “Boise Hole” at 8th and Main, Idaho Power will drop a spot, to 11th place.
Information courtesy of Blaine O. Johnston, A.I.A, Idaho Power Company Architect. Further supplemented by Anna Webb of the Idaho Statesman (150 Boise Icons: Idaho Power Building), the CSHQA official website, and Wikipedia (List of Tallest Buildings in Boise).