150 Boise Icons: Morrison Center

awebb@idahostatesman.comMarch 6, 2013 

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Did you know? The Morrison Center’s stage is 10 stories tall. Morrison Center architect Ernest Lombard didn’t notice at first that, from the air, it’s easy to see the building is shaped like the state of Idaho.


Harry W. Morrison, founder of Morrison Knudsen, and his wife, Velma Morrison, dreamed about building a performing arts center for decades. After Harry Morrison died in the 1970s, Velma began rallying support for the effort.

In the 1980s, the Idaho Legislature designated $5.25 million for the center. The Harry W. Morrison Foundation gave $6.5 million. The community, including Jack and Esther Simplot, gave another $3.7 million. Builders broke ground in 1981, and the center opened for performances in 1984.

A few notable facts about the 2,000-seat center, located at 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane on Boise State's campus, from Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho:

• Original plans called for the center to be built in Ann Morrison Park near the fountain. It would have been a pyramid/ziggurat shape surrounded by parking lots.

• The lobby is designed for patrons to see and be seen, with lots of balconies and turns in the grand staircase.

• The main concert hall is designed to be tuned for individual performances like a huge musical instrument.

• Preservation Idaho hosts the 2nd Annual Modern Masters talk with architect Ernest Lombard at 7 p.m. Friday at the Idaho Transportation Department, 3311 W. State St.

Lombard will talk about his designs, including the Morrison Center, the First Interstate Center (now the Wells Fargo building at 9th and Main streets in Boise), the Ada County/Boise City Law complex on Barrister, and more. Coffee, dessert and a silent auction will follow.

For tickets and information, go to preservationidaho.org.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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