Exhibit reveals lost, but not forgotten, Boise

The city's popular 'Remnants' display ends on Saturday

awebb@idahostatesman.comApril 24, 2013 

  • SEE 'REMNANTS OF BOISE'

    Sesqui-Shop through Saturday, 1008 Main St., noon to 6 p.m. daily.

City historian Brandi Burns started working many years ago on a virtual tour to show Boise's physical evolution during its first 150 years. Public interest inspired the project.

"We get so many questions from people about what buildings were where and what the city used to look like," said Burns. "That's hard to show without a picture."

She spent months collecting more than 300 photographs of Boise and researching its neighborhoods.

The "Remnants of Boise" virtual tour features 25 locations around the city, contemporary 360-degree views and photos of the way well-known places have changed in a century and a half.

The opening of the city's Sesqui-Shop earlier this year gave Burns and the city the chance to add a new dimension to the online tour.

The "Remnants" exhibition there features prints of the photos from the virtual tour and remains from many of the city's lost buildings.

Visitors can see a photo of the Eastman Building that stood at 8th and Main, which became the infamous "Boise Hole," and see one of the lion heads that dotted the Eastman's cornice, salvaged from the rubble when the building burned in the late 1980s.

Artifacts in the show range from 1880s-era hardware from Cole School, razed in 2009 at Fairview and Cole, to a cornerstone from Boise's first public school, built on the site of the present Carnegie Library building in 1868 and demolished in the early 1900s.

"The fragments are compelling because they're tangible. You can touch them. It gives you something to connect reality to the black-and-white photographs," said Dan Everhart from Preservation Idaho.

The group partnered with the city to put out the call to Boiseans to loan their local building artifacts for the exhibit. Residents responded with gargoyle-headed beams from Old City Hall, tin-roof tiles from the Territorial Capitol Building and more.

Burns and Everhart said that as cool as the exhibition is, pulling it together was disheartening at times because so many structures are gone.

"If it wasn't always uplifting, we hoped the exhibition would be an opportunity for dialogue, even if that's between friends," said Everhart.

Organizers also wanted to remind people that although 1970s urban renewal is infamous for the loss of buildings, demolition of historic structures is always a threat.

The exhibition offers visitors the chance to vote - by dropping rusty nails into quart jars - for their favorite late, great and mourned Boise building.

The Natatorium, the geothermally heated pool billed as a Moorish pleasure palace when it opened in 1892, is the runaway winner, even among tough competition, including the spectacular former Pinney Theater and the old Soldier's Home at what is now Veterans Park.

The turreted Natatorium fell into disrepair in the early part of the 20th century. A windstorm finally did it in during the 1930s.

Shop curator Rachel Reichert wants to include interactive features in every exhibit.

"When I start, I always question if anyone will participate," she said.

In this case, they did. More than 600 people came to see the remnants when the show opened on First Thursday in early April, and the jars filled quickly with rusted nails.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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