150 Boise Icons: Old Assay Office

February 7, 2013 

The Idaho Statesman is marking Boise’s 150th anniversary by highlighting 150 classic icons that help make Boise the city it is.

Today's is the Old Assay Office at 210 Main Street in Downtown.

Idaho miners weighed their gold and minerals and had them “assayed” for value at the Federal Assay Office, built in 1871.

The building contained heavy equipment for all of this, but had a domestic side as well. The chief assayer and his family lived in an apartment on the top floor. Security guards lived in the basement. The building’s style is Italianate, seen in its low-pitched roof, big eaves, modified tower and square floor plan.

Between 1872 and 1933, millions of dollars in gold and minerals — by one account more than $1.5 million a year — came throughout the doors. The windows have security bars, and the sandstone walls are 2 feet thick. The assay office closed in 1933 and became a Forest Service office. The grounds became a city park.

The building, now the state’s Historic Preservation Office, is one of just 10 Idaho national landmarks, an honor shared with the likes of Cataldo Mission, Fort Hall, the Lolo Trail and Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 in Arco.

Readers, staffers, local historians and others are contributing to the evolving list of 150 icons, which will appear in the paper and online (in no particular order) leading up to the citywide birthday celebration in July.

Nominate your own local icon and tell us why: awebb@idahostatesman.com.

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