Marking its place on the northern corner of 8th and Idaho Street, the eminent Mode Building stands its ground next to its brother the Fidelity while engaging in a cordial stance with Union Block. This Sullivanesque, classic red-brick rectangular structure is a popular hot-spot for the many down-town adventurers of Idaho, as it houses not only the fancy North Face outdoor gear store but also the lovely Pie Hole pizza among its many franchises. Having existed for over a century, the Mode encompasses a unique arsenal of personal background.
Upon its completed construction in 1895, the structure accommodated for the Mode Ltd., recognized as an impressive, high class department store unique to the area. It was constructed on a space that had previously been occupied by the Palace Meat Market, which had been nostalgic to the minds of many old-time Boise residents by the time of the Mode’s construction. Harry Falk, a member of the well-known Falk Department Store family, insisted upon the Mode’s development and hired the Boise developer John Broadbent for its establishment. The building consists of four stories complete with its famous large picture windows on every floor. The Mode picture windows rendered it a favorable attraction, as citizens around town came to view the live models display scenes from Broadway musicals or even murder scenes.
After its remodel completed on September 30, 1929, the Mode was celebrated for its equipment of two entrances and increased provisions, of which included a magnificent art sector. However, despite its continued prosperity, Falk and his business associates sold the department store to JJ Chapman and his wife Ethel in 1938. Ethel ended maintaining the store as a successful salon during her years of ownership, bringing in merchandise from New York.
Unfortunately, on June 18th, 1958, the Mode Building was scarred by a disastrous fire. The blaze apparently started in the basement, and even with the efforts of all of Boise’s firemen, citizens watched as the fire and water destroyed the building and its precious merchandise. Fire burned off the roof and much of the top floor, leaving behind, over one million dollars in damage. Chapman’s store was briefly relocated to the First Security Bank Building, during the period of reconstruction. But with the reopening on April 16th, 1959, the building’s integrity was kept intact. Boise citizens were delighted to see additions of a bridal consultant, upgraded booths in the salon, a barbecue, and patio. While the exterior retained its classic look, the interior was modernized for its full function.
Since the birth of the Mode in 1895, visitors of the building expressed their delight for the second floor Mode Tea Room. This started a prolonged tradition of simple gathering and dining that has endured till today. Tea parties were common, and special occasions called for exceptional dishes such as the renowned eight-layer cake, commonly prepared by Falk’s loving wife.
Ethel Chapman sold the building to James Ruark, the manager of the Falk building, in 1969. Under Ruark, the building went under yet another remodeling project in 1988 to install escalators as well as an upgrade of the building’s interior. Part of the change included renaming the Mode Tea Room the Mode Café, but clear disappointment from angry customers forced Ruark to change the name back. This clearly indicated the historical importance the structure represented by this time. The grand reopening of the Mode Building took place on September 9, 1988.
Financial woes plagued the building and businesses it housed with the opening of the massive Boise Towne Square Mall in 1988. The Mode, Ltd. became unable to compete with such supreme competition and the proprietor faced having to sell the business. Ruark officially put the Mode, Ltd. up for sale in January of 1991. Despite his efforts to sell the building, the store was forced to close in late 1991. Throughout the following years, numerous businesses and stores tried their luck in the structure, most met little success.
Even to this day, the structure remains both historically and culturally significant, playing a major role in the revitalization to the entire 8th Street area. Numerous franchises have taken hold and prospered within the local economy, housed by the magnificent Mode Building. Outdoor product company, North Face has become a successful franchise, operating out of its Boise location in the Mode Building. Other significant restaurants also took root in the building such as Grape Escape and Pie Hole.
The Mode Building most similarly represents a Sullivanesque style of architecture. The style was named after the renowned architect, Louis Sullivan, who made himself known from his exquisite work in Chicago. This style is characterized by a number of factors, including intricate weaving of linear and geometric forms in symmetrical patterns. The roofs typically tend to be flat and are characterized by deep projecting eaves. Sullivanesque buildings tend to be very vertical oriented and box-like. This style was most commonly used in commercial areas due to its popularity for multi-storied office buildings.
Back when it was constructed and even in contemporary society, the Mode Building was and still is a significant building, both culturally and historically. It represents a new wave of Sullivanesque architecture brought westward from back East. The building has a colorful history detailed with countless personal stories. Overall, this building, whether people realize it is noteworthy on numerous accounts, making it truly one of Boise’s paramount structures, one that all of us should take notice of.
“Boise Architecture Project’s final list: 11 endangered Boise sites.” Idaho Statesman. N.p., 16 June 2010. Web. 29 May 2012.
“Mode Building.” The Boise Wiki. Wiki Spot, 5 August 2011. Web. 28 May 2012.
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