Property Type: Commercial
Neighborhood: Downtown  |  County: Ada  |  Building Status: Public  |  Architectural Style: Greek Revival
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The US bank in downtown Boise, Idaho is extremely rich in historical significance to Boise. One of the most interesting things about the bank lies within the fact that it was always a bank and always served Idaho from its original agricultural purpose to its purpose of normal banking for Idahoans. Another thing is that it is all original from when it was created and has only lost material and has never gained anything from its remodels. One of the employees at the bank could only define it one word and that was “amazing” because its Greek revival architecture mixed with its mostly marble insides creates a very truly authentic look.
The bank first came to Idaho in 1867 under the name the First National Bank of Idaho. It originally was created to serve the miners of Idaho among which were the banks first founders: Christopher W. Moore and Benjamin M. DuRell who came because of the Idaho gold rush in the 1860’s. Through a few early struggles like being denied a charter from the government and taking a while to make the bank profit DuRell and Moore persevered and began to have a successful banking company that was able to ease trade with other territories and stabilize the Idaho territory’s economy. Once stable the bank had relatively small trouble staying strong even through the various panics in the late 1800’s and the 1900’s. Then in 1903 partly to show the bank’s stability a three story building was completed to show that it was secure. The bank moved only once after this into the six-story Empire Building and it remained there through 1989 when the bank was renamed West One Bancorp, due to a change in ownership, and later to the U.S. Bank that stands today. The bank uses both the three-story bank building and the Empire Building.
The U.S. Bank is architecturally significant for its style and the timing of its construction. America had undergone some serious panics and the Bank owners decided to have a grand building to be built to show the safety in the bank and the stableness of its economy. The three-story building is in a Greek revival style of architecture on the outside and the inside. The outside showcases two huge ionic columns that give it a classical Greek style that seems to be the stereotypical classical bank style. It also gives it an older feel to it almost as if it was colonial. On the inside the bank is mostly made of white marble that reflects the Greek style on the outside. All the counters and walls are marble and the ceiling beams are supported by corbels on either side of each beam. These corbels compliment the style perfectly by continuing the classic look. Another feature is the blocky design of both the outside and the interior floors to solidify its Greek revival style. One last major architectural design is the huge arches for windows that are located on the second and third stories. All the other designs are small things that compliment the main architecture like the small arches and small flowery designs all over the walls, the tile on the floor and the marble everywhere, and the carpet pattern on the ceiling.
The inside of the bank is filled with significant pieces of old items that give it a museum feel on the inside. For one there are pictures of scenes of earlier days of the bank and an original scale for measuring gold. Another feature is the huge vault door that is original and still tended to by the original company, the Mosler Safe Company, that installed it. It is roughly seven feet in diameter and weighs several tons. These features and others like statues are on display for the public to see just like a museum. It is also remarkable because it is all original work. All the marble and designs within the building have not been added onto even during its large renovation in the 1950’s, in which thins were only were taken out of the bank like some of the desks and lamps. Now the bank does not look like a bank throughout the entire building because the bank teller desks do not span the length of the building anymore. Even though the desks do not span the length of the building the ones that are left are all original from its creation. The style of these desks includes barred doors with small openings in the bottom for transactions and people can tell that they were built years ago because of the old style on them. In fact the desks are so solid and old that there are dips from people standing to do business with the tellers just in front of these desks and there are even dips in the tile where there used to be desks before they were taken out. Another interesting thing about the bank is that it used to stand on 10th street but because of redesign of the city and the building of the Empire Building it is no longer on 10th street but it maintains its 10th street address. This is because its main door was original facing 10th street but a different main entrance between the two huge columns was constructed and on one has changed the address/.Because the Empire building was just added on there are a few arch windows on one side that are walled up where there used to be light coming through.
When interviewed the first employee was a history jockey who appreciated the ability to share what he felt. He felt that being able to work in a building with so much rich history was a fantastic experience. He enjoys looking at the reactions of people as they begin to take in the awesome architecture of a building that is extremely fine and delicate. He said that a building like the U.S. bank building would cost a fortune to make in today’s world because of the detail and style of the building. He said also that it made him feel more important because he was standing in such historical building and he feels like a museum employee because many people enjoy talking about the building with him and he enjoys sharing everything he knows about the building.
Being the oldest still function bank in Idaho makes the U.S. bank building on 10th street really interesting. All the other banks from its time closed down due to economic struggles and the inability to compete with the struggles of economic depression. The bank today does not only represent the banking company but also a will to survive among the American public. It represents the strength of Idaho’s economy and it demonstrates the fact that Idaho will remain and be strong for many years to come. The bank also represents the birth of Idaho’s economy from miners to agriculture to its diversified economy toady. This fact helps preserve the history of Idaho in an unexpected way because instead of museums the bank creates a history that can be found only in actual old buildings.