Boise's El Korah Shriners got their charter in 1898 - making them as much of a city icon as their temple.
The Shriners are a national charitable fraternal organization that began in 1870, born out of a group of Masons who met regularly for cocktails in New York City.
They decided the Masons were too focused on ritual, so they created their own group focused on fun and fraternity. The 13 founding Shriners adopted the fezzes and Near Eastern theme "on a lark," said Potentate Ron Lester of the Boise Shrine Center.
All Shriners are Masons, but not all Masons are Shriners.
By 1920, the national Shriners organization adopted the welfare of children as its charitable cause. The group opened its first Shriners hospital, one still operating, in Shreveport, La.
Today, members raise money for the 22 Shriners hospitals that operate across the U.S. No child needing medical care is turned away for lack of funds, said Lester.
The local organization's building on Idaho Street dates to the late 1800s.
Its first use was as a city livery stable. A fire in 1913 gutted the building; 55 horses perished. The Shriners, who had been holding their meetings and ceremonies at the Natatorium, at a 10th Street skating rink and the First National Bank building, rebuilt the damaged stable in 1914. They added an addition in 1928.
There's a lot more than meets the eye at the Shrine Center. The Shriners' band room still has its 1920s light fixtures. The Oasis bar and restaurant in the basement serves lunch five days a week. Technically, guests are supposed to be accompanied by a member, but no one's likely to be turned away, said Lester.
An expansive ladies room at the Temple earned a nod from Boise Weekly in 2009 as one of the finest bathrooms in the city (think plush pink carpet and a profusion of silk floral arrangements).
Another special feature: 11 murals with a desert theme painted by Boise sign-maker, muralist and Shriner J.H. Hopffgarten in 1921. The organization is having the murals evaluated now in anticipation of restoring them to their Jazz Age glory.
Next time you're in the neighborhood, stop by and ask a Shriner to show you Hopffgarten's framed case of jewels and ribbons from his time as potentate of the organization.
1118 W. Idaho St.
Anna Webb: 377-6431