The Modern Hotel and Bar was first built and located in Nampa, in 1936, at the height of the depression. Regina Echevarria, the grandmother of the hotel’s current owner, Elizabeth Tullis, owned a Basque boarding house. The boarding house’s name came about from the presence of its modern amenities, especially steam heating. The building at the Modern Hotel’s current location was originally a Travelodge, opened in 1960. Travelodge was the second hotel chain to span the country, after the Holiday Inn. While Holiday Inn generally opened next to airports, Travelodges opened in the heart of downtown areas.
In 2007, the aging Boise Travelodge was refurbished as a distinctive boutique hotel in downtown Boise featuring d?cor and design that pay homage to the mid-century aesthetic that would have been popular in 1960 when the building was originally constructed. Not to imply that the renovation was a slavish repetition of old ideas. To the contrary, the architectural design of Dwaine Carver at Trout Architects has maintained the essence of the International style’s design while giving it a contemporary finish. The interior decoration and the reconfiguration of rooms is the most striking update, with amenities that appeal to both the traveler and the design-conscious.
The Modern Hotel sits at the corner of Grove and 14th. It features a small courtyard garden where, in the summer, musicians play from 6pm to 10pm. Generally, each room includes a kitchen area for eating and preparing food, living rooms and bedrooms with plasma televisions, comfortable furniture for lounging and closet space for hanging up clothes. However, each of the 39 rooms is just different enough that each room is its own experience. Additionally, the Modern Hotel adds a little Idaho flair to the tradition of leaving a chocolate on guests’ pillows by leaving Idaho spuds on the pillows as well.
The exterior of the hotel features various cut out patterns along its sides, a decorative touch to add a bit of uniqueness to an otherwise stark building. Even the covered stairs leading up to most of the rooms have a unique, modern touch. At night, the exterior is illuminated with colored lights, making it one of the most beautiful buildings on the street.
The interior of the Modern is equally unique and beautiful. A variety of Japanese furniture contributes to the hotel?s modern theme and skylights light up the hallways with shimmering beautiful colors. The hotel is also sometimes used for art competitions, so when art is left behind, the pieces are hung up in the Modern’s hallways, thus giving it a diverse display of art.
Other unique features of the Modern Hotel include an old damaged swimming pool redesigned into fire pits so visitors can sit by them and roast treats. On the side of the building the hotel has a mix of checkered designs to decorate the inner hallways with moonlight. The hotel also shows architectural beauty by extending a few bricks from the building giving it angles that provide photographers with excellent shots. But the most famous piece of architecture in the Modern Hotel is the Steel design of Jazz dancers at a Ball.
The wonderful staff and the people of Boise played their part in making the hotel as successful as it is. In the words of Elizabeth Tullis: “Owning the Modern has exceeded my expectations in every way. The staff is incomparable, fun and excellent at their craft; Boise is very supportive and thankful for such a place; the guests are engaged, happy, interesting and interested; the art community and our dear friends have made it a place of creativity, community, fun, adventure and a place to call their own; my family has invested time, ingenuity, money, creativity and big love to make the Modern what it is. It is many things to many people but for our family it is a love song to my mother who not only grew up in the original hotel but also was instrumental in bringing this one to life. I am very proud to be the third generation of women that owned and operated The Modern Hotel.”
With increasing pressure on the preservation of mid-century structures, it is appropriate that Preservation Idaho would recognize a project that preserves a piece of the modern era while putting it back to efficient use. For these reasons, Preservation Idaho is pleased to award the project a 2010 Orchid Award for Contribution to Historic Preservation.