The Boise Masonic Temple is located in the heart of downtown at 215 N. 10th Street in the Boise City Original Townsite. In 2012, Boise City Council designated the building as its 33rd Local Historical Landmark reflecting the significance of its history, architecture, and craftsmanship. The building also received an Orchid from Preservation Idaho in 2012 for Heritage Stewardship – a recognition of decades of care by the Masons.
The large building (around 38000 square feet) was originally designed by noted architect Ross Cartee and was built in the Neoclassical Style. This was not the first Boise building inhabited by the Masons (that was an adobe building at 7th and Idaho), but this important Lodge broke ground in 1900 and was completed in 1907. Thirteen years later a major alteration and expansion of the building was designed by Idaho architects Wayland and Fennell. Cartee’s original details were obscured, and the new brick and sandstone Colonial Revival design was marked by a prominent pedimented entrance with columns and a cornerstone on the northeast corner marking the 1920 date. The expanded Lodge was structured to house commercial businesses (originally an Oldsmobile dealership) on the first floor while the upper floors were used by fraternal organizations, both Freemasons and others. Around nine different Masonic organizations have used the building; many at the same time. The large meeting rooms on the second-floor account for the blind windows that mark the top floor of the building – blind windows are an original design feature in which bricked-in faux recesses are included in the exterior wall to allow for the symmetrical arrangement of the elevation.
The interior of the upper floors included ornate woodwork and plaster decorations which were stripped from the building in 2023. Among the original interior features, now destroyed, were 100 large light fixtures, around two feet across, throughout multiple rooms. Several of the door casings were capped in the Neoclassical style but had deep door frames indicating possible brick interior walls (a reminder of the 1920 expansion of the original building). The Neoclassical style mimics early American Architecture and is seen in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Also of note before their removal, were several interior Classical styled columns, ornate plasterwork, oak and mahogany paneling, marble trim, and original furnishings.
Additional important interior elements of the historic building include “Bertha”, the 1913 swamp cooler, a large vault that for many years contained sepia photographs of Masonic leaders starting at the turn of the 19th century, and caretaker accommodations in the basement which, until 2023, had the original green bathroom sink, toilet, and bathtub.
The Lodge has been in constant use since it was built, most recently as an event center managed by the Masons. Despite some interior refurbishment in recent years, deferred maintenance has become an issue and the preservation of the building is no longer certain despite protections mandated by the Local Historic Landmark status. The building’s 2023 sale by the Masons to a private developer allowed the gutting of the interior while exterior alterations are, as yet, unannounced.
The history of Fraternal Organizations is significant in the history of Boise and Idaho. Many (if not most) of the original founders were part of Freemasonry Orders and the organization in Idaho dates back to its inception in 1863. It was very common for these founders to have a Masonic Burial Ceremony followed by burial in the Pioneer Cemetery. The local newspapers state that many organizations used this structure for their meetings and at one time reportedly housed civic elections. Early members were from many religious backgrounds and it’s safe to say played a significant part in the relationships between Boise citizens.
Text by Preservation Idaho
Historic photos courtesy of Idaho State Archives