Property Type: Institutional
Neighborhood: The Bench  |  County: Ada  |  Building Status: Public  |  Year Built: 1925  |  Architectural Style: Various
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Whitney Elementary School is located on Overland Road on the Boise Bench. Today Whitney serves nearly 400 students. It is the central mark of the Vista Neighborhood Plan which envisions a safe, well maintained community. In this, bicycle and pedestrian accessibility, vehicle mobility, and improvements as well as preservation of older buildings are a major goal. However, due to the necessity of modern facilities, Whitney will be demolished and rebuilt in the following years. Whitney Elementary has a vast historical significance to the Boise area. In the summer of 1903, W.G. Whitney, a well known nurseryman of Payette, donated 1 acre of land for the construction of a new school 2 miles south of Boise. Additionally, Whitney donated $100 worth of trees, a considerable amount in that year. The first Whitney Elementary School was erected in 1903. The school was a square, two-story red brick building. In 1923, the school was annexed into the Boise School District. A year later, it burned to the ground. Fire inspectors claimed that the school district was fortunate because of the building’s weakening construction and the fact that school was not in session during the fire and no one was injured. In 1925 a second Whitney Elementary School was built as a result of the high demand for another school by the rapidly growing Boise Bench area. In 1936, additions were made to the north and south ends of the school. Additions included more classrooms, a lunchroom, and gymnasium. The “hot lunch” kitchen/cafeteria was a significant advancement shared with Cole Elementary. Lastly, in 1946 the final addition completing the current day school extended the south end. The School was thoroughly renovated in 1977 and received a new roof in 1989. In the last fifty years the school has been rigorously maintained n attempts to keep the school somewhat modern. Today Whitney is a one-story, flat, “stucco-over-brick” structure with a parapet roof and multi-paned windows. The building has a somewhat art deco design (flat roof and metal window encasements) despite the horizontal feel, Spanish stucco, and French provincial doorways (rectangular door with an arch above it). The current day building is constructed on about 8.85 acres, nearly 9 times the original land mass. Each addition made to Whitney was done by different architects. The main design for the second Whitney Elementary was created by Wayland and Fennel. At the time, their design was quite controversial because two-story (colonial and neoclassical styles) were most popular during the time period. It wasn’t until after WWII that a single story (ranch style and bungalow) designs were accepted by society. The second addition built in 1936 was designed by Tourtellote and Hummel, and the third addition in 1946 was designed by Stein. Because of unavailability of funds for permanent additions prior to 1936, portable units were moved onto the school grounds in 1930 and 1931. More portables were also added in 1940 and 1944 due to a rapid increase in student population. In addition to being one of the first schools to serve hot lunch, Whitney led other innovations in the Boise School District. In 1946, Mr. Clyde Langlois grew minimally enthused of the muddy play fields. As a result, Whitney became one of the first schools in the Boise School District to have a grassy play field. Langlois maintained the field for a year before the district took over. Additionally, Whitney was one of the first schools to have new play equipment installed. Mr. Langlois later became the first full-time principal in the district. Finally, a more current story related by the staff includes a homeless man who made the office at Whitney his nighttime resting place. Evidently, a gun he had went off (accidentally?) and shot the school’s binder machine. (see photo) Staff swear that despite the hole clear through the machine, it is still the best binder machine at Whitney!
Whitney Elementary School is an iconic school of the Boise School District. Whitney helped to develop the school district and was the center of the surrounding community. Furthermore, it contributed to the expansion of Boise. The school boldly diversified the architecture of the Bench using a drastic, nonconformist style. Upon reconstruction Whitney will be remembered as an eccentric historical building of Boise.