“The Totem” is the companion New Deal-era log structure at the south end of Boise’s 1931 art deco Capitol Boulevard bridge, currently the home of Papa Joe’s pizza parlor at the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Ann Morrison Park Boulevard, near the entrance to Boise State University, since 1986.
“The Totem” opened in 1936 and served as the headquarters of the Boise Civilian Conservation Corps district office — President Franklin Roosevelt’s “tree army” that brought more than 28,000 young men to Idaho for forestry work (more than any other state except California).
Together, the two log buildings and the bridge form Boise’s New Deal “triptych” — a trio of art, culture, and history from an era when America was struggling to raise itself from the depths of the Great Depression and re-instill communal purpose to the nation in the form of dignity-giving jobs for Idaho’s unemployed.
Through the years, according to Anna Webb’s 2013 book, “150 Boise Icons/To Celebrate The City’s Sesquicentennial,” “The Totem” building has hosted a furniture showroom, “Dixon’s” seafood restaurant, a tire store, an insurance company, and a bakery. Through all of these iterations, the log and hardwood interior has been lovingly preserved and offers a rare glimpse into a bygone era of appreciation for fine woodworking and lasting craftsmanship.
The totem pole on top of the log structure dates to 1960, when the Tlingit Tribe sent it from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Boise, at the request of Boise native Ed Magden, who opened the Totem Insurance Company in the historic log building … and really loved Alaska. The iconic totem features a wolf, a beaver, and eagle, and a man with fish.
Now, reports “BoiseDev,” “The Totem” has been listed for sale for $350,000 and its future is unknown.
Written by David Klinger, sources: John Bertram’s Capitol Boulevard planning document and Anna Webb’s Boise sesquicentennial book.