Driving down State Street, your attention is easily drawn to the bright colors of Rainbow Books, a local used book store whose main theme is to provide customers with affordable reading material and a friendly, helpful staff. Yet 1310 W. State Street is a building with a diverse past and many different landholders. Built in 1956, this post-war industrial style home was built as a simple home for a plumber. There are stories that children would run around and play in the home. However, the building quickly became nonresidential as State Street began to buy more land for commercial purposes. Although much of the building has been stripped of its original structure, the history that the renovations provide is still present and add to the story that the building tells.
After a short time on the market, the building was bought by a small Greek restaurant. The bathroom inside of the bookshop shows remnants of the restaurant’s style of decorative wallpaper and light fixtures. Climbing vines and fleur de lis adorn the walls and the red countertop. The restaurant was mildly prosperous, but in the late 1970’s it closed down. The building was then bought by a telephone company called Interlink Communications, which gave the community a local telephone service. The east windows on the house were once drive-thru windows which were there so that people could simply drive up to pay their bills, and also why the roof overhangs there. However, after the company moved away, they left behind mountains of old wiring for telephones, which current owner Laurie had to clean up. There was also a tall metal tower on a concrete foundation by the back door. The foundation is still there even though the tower is gone. Old cellar doors lead to an underground groundwork beneath the building which houses an antique furnace and tank that are no longer in use. Many houses built in the 1950’s had this characteristic of an oil furnace, yet they are a hassle to operate and the building switched to electric heat as soon as it could. However, there are no stairs leading down there so it isn’t gone into very often. Perhaps for good reason.
In 1993 the company of Rainbow Books, which was originally at 1700 W. Idaho Street, bought the current building. There are hardly any original rooms in the building now, as the renovations of all the companies had different needs. But now, there are rooms created by the mass amount of bookshelves spanning the length of the building, and making the inside actually seem larger than it really is because of all the different nooks and crannies. Plus, there is an upstairs attic full of books too. The stairs are not original, and were moved from a small closet to the corner they occupy now. Upstairs has a lot of windows that have been put in just for the purpose of letting in plenty of light for customers. The original chimney runs through the attic, even though there is no fireplace downstairs. Plus, lots of little cubbies store books and other miscellaneous items. Front, back and side gables adorn the whole building, and a classic ‘50’s planter out front encircling the porch that is made of long horizontal bricks. The bright blue painting of the building is done to match the rainbow theme, and to make the building seem friendlier and readily accepted in the community.
The bookstore has helped to fix some of the problems that are attributed to older buildings. A large air conditioning unit is right above the front porch and it would be an eyesore, except that the Rainbow Books sign covers it up and adds flair to the building. The bookshelves help to cover up some of the old, cheap wood paneling that is on some of the walls. New carpet covers up the flooring, which back in its telecommunications days was a place for the workers answering the phones to sit around, and maybe have a cigarette or two. In fact, Laurie has cleaned much of the building from its rather dingy, original state and turned it into an eclectic collection in a quaint bookstore.
Although Boise has some buildings and houses that are extraordinary and stand out from all the rest, Rainbow Books is an embodiment of what most of Boise’s homes and buildings look like. A tribute to what the community actually is. Most of the North End has houses built the same way as Rainbow Books, and sometimes it’s nice to highlight the buildings that actually make up most of the local society. The post World War II industrial era was focused on building homes that were made for practicality, not necessarily for showing off. Homes needed to be mass produced for the baby boomers era, and not much thought was given to ornate structures. However, Rainbow Books does have a sort of national style, with all four of it’s gables and it’s rectangular overhanging roof.
Rainbow Books gives back to the community too by keeping books circulating throughout Boise and letting the joy of reading stay prominent in our ever-expanding technological society. Although the name “Rainbow” has a lot of different meanings, the purpose for this bookstore is nothing more than the happiness that rainbows can bring. It may not be the most flamboyant building, but it certainly has the heart of one that has been around to see the development of other houses like it. Plus the fact that it’s on State Street gives it a prime location to be seen without advertising having to be done. Yes, the building may be old, but the history is rich and changes with the needs of the community. So what’s in the future of Rainbow Books? It might stay as that business for a long time to come. The lot is shared by DK Donuts and as long as people are hungry for sweets, there’s going to be a hunger for reading. Only time will tell what may come of the old blue building.