The predecessor of the Boise Depot on the bench was a passenger depot built in 1894 at Front and 10th streets in Downtown Boise.
That building, say historians, opened the door for the construction of a first-class hotel. Boise architect William S. Campbell (whose firm became what is now CSHQA) seized the moment to build the Idanha in 1900.
The origins of the word "Idanha" are hazy. By some accounts, it's a variation of a tribal word for healing waters. By other accounts, it's a made-up word. It was the name of a bottled water from Soda Springs that won a top prize at the Chicago's World Fair in 1893.
In any case, when the hotel opened its doors, the Idaho Daily Statesman called it "the acme of perfection."
The Idanha's French chateau style is visible in its spires and turrets as well as its notched roofline.
The building is architecturally unusual in Boise. Beyond the bricks and mortar, it's also one of the most storied buildings in the city. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Benjamin Harrison all stayed there, along with actress Ethel Barrymore.
Singer Roger Miller composed the American classic "King of the Road" while staying at the Idanha.
The hotel's most famous association may be with the "trial of the century" in 1907. The state of Idaho prosecuted labor boss William "Big Bill" Haywood for hiring Harry Orchard to assassinate former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.
Steunenberg had earned Haywood's wrath by sending federal troops to crack down on striking miners in North Idaho. A jury acquitted Haywood, thanks, perhaps, to an 11-hour speech by celebrated defense attorney Clarence Darrow that moved women in the courtroom to tears.
Many of the people associated with the trial stayed at the Idanha, including prosecutor William Borah.
Frank Gooding, governor during the trial, feared for his own safety during that tense time. He and his family decamped from their mansion on Warm Springs and took up residence on the Idanha's third floor. Darrow found the Idanha oppressive and rented a small cottage near Warm Springs instead.
In later years, the hotel lost its grandeur and got a little threadbare. Still, celebrated musician Gene Harris led Tuesday night jam sessions in the hotel's lobby bar. Musician Curtis Stigers cut his jazz teeth there in the 1980s when he was just a teenager.
Anthony Lukas, author of "Big Trouble," the definitive book on the Haywood case, wrote the author's note for "Big Trouble" in 1996 in Idanha Suite 306. He called the hotel a "creaking relic of its former splendor." In those years, the Heaven on Earth Inns Corp., and subsidiary of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation Program owned the hotel.
Today, Parklane Management has converted the Idanha into apartments and businesses.
928 W. Main St.
Anna Webb: 377-6431