If you venture to Hyde Park, and come across the corner of Eastman and 13th Street, you would find yourself in front of the Sun Ray Café. On a sunny day, it is inviting for many of the locals to Hyde Park to order a sandwich, grab a newspaper, and enjoy the serenity of a quiet Sunday in Boise. Hyde Park attracts the active citizens of Boise, especially bikers, runners, or simply anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Aside from the location and architecture of the building, the warmth of the staff and inside alone is enough to bring in steady customers and regulars. However, the charming atmosphere of the building is obtained partially by the strange décor of the building.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the Sun Ray Café was the Sunray Dairy. Only half of what is the building now was this former dairy. There were five of these dairies strewn throughout Boise, one still standing today. This building, having been constructed in the 1900s, was a historical figure in Boise, because at the time, the milkman would bring milk to the doorways of houses, pick up the old bottles, and leave newly replenished ones. This is noted in the last month, when current owner, Dave Martin, came across an old reusable milk carton reading “Sun Ray Dairy.” This artifact is displayed on the counter of the café.
The portion of building facing Thirteenth Street, along with being a former dairy, was a gas station at one point in time. This is made clear by the structure of the overhang of the building. Attached to this half of the building is a concrete and steel terrace that provides shade to the “porch” of the building. In the middle of this terrace is what appears to be the remnant of a gas station pump. Though this piece does not currently fuel cars, the shape is clear and the owners believe it to be such. The porch is a large part of the architectural significance because of the overwhelming size and the attention it draws to the building. In addition, it draws the eyes upwards to view the art deco decoration of the burgundy diamonds along the top of the Sun Ray Café. This displays the architectural style of the building for all to see.
In the 1950’s, the mother of the current owner of the Sun Ray Café bought the building, with the intentions of creating a place to hang out, get some coffee, and eat. Henceforth, the Lucky 13 was born. When she bought this building, she added an offset to the main building with a window from which they could take outside orders. Unfortunately, this idea never really took off, but the addition remained as a non-functional but complementary piece of the building, correlating with the art deco style. Its boxy lines yet rounded style works with both the linear roofline and rounded front doors. The inside of this portion of the building has a classic diner style. The front counter is made of steel, complete with the black and white checkered floors and red round barstools. To the right of counter is a cluster of red booths and small tables to create a eating area.
When buying the dairy, the Martin family also bought the building next to it on Eastman Street. This building was a garage, as is made obvious from the outside by the garage door-shaped windows. When walking through the hallway between the front and back portions of the Sun Ray Café, one can see the obvious molding of the floor and signs of newly made connection between the buildings. The back room is very open, and light is easily let through from the large windows. When the previous owner of the building sold it to her son, he replaced the garage doors with large steel-paneled windows that both appeared to be garage doors and function as garage doors when the sun is shining, to create a more outdoorsy feel for the active citizens of Boise.
When looking at the Sun Ray Café from the street, the art deco design is obvious. If one could take a helicopter ride above the building, they would see that it is shaped like a series of blocks, ranging from big to small. In addition, the building’s roofline is very linear and flat, with burnt sienna diamonds littered along the top, creating an artsy feel. Even the overhang shading the front is level and horizontal. Finally, the addition created in the 50’s coincidentally fits the art deco design by having a half-octagonal shape and a flat top, while managing to match the roundness of the handles and glass of the front door.
Perhaps the most important part of the significance of the Sun Ray Café to both Hyde Park and Boise is the use of the building and the feel inside today. Visibly, it is used as a restaurant, a place to eat and drink, but it is also a place to congregate. It is common for the people who live near Hyde Park and more to use the Café as a place to relax, meet with friends, and chat with strangers, while escaping the hustle and bustle of life. In addition to being a place to hang out, the Sun Ray Café hosts many rising musicians of the area. This is visible for newcomers in the front portion of the building with a piece of iron artwork portraying a jazz musician playing on the sax. The back room of the building is used for mini-concerts, low-key jam sessions, and practice with a live audience for rising musicians. While the owner doesn’t pay these musicians to play, they both get experience from playing for groups of strangers and provide free entertainment for the customers in the Café.
The Sun Ray Café, while only recently having transitioned from being the Lucky 13, is a well-established building in Boise. It has a significant history, but unlike some previously important buildings, it has only gained fame and popularity with age.