150 Boise Icons: Idaho's county seals

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 3, 2013 

When Idaho celebrated its centennial in 1990, then-Mayor Dirk Kempthorne came up with the idea of creating decorative seals for Idaho's 44 counties to line Capitol Boulevard.

Albertsons sponsored the project. The Webers, proprietors of Classic Design Studio, got the job of making the seals. The initial idea was to make them out of bronze.

"But then we thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice if they were colorful?' " said Noel Weber.

He proposed making the seals using a European porcelain enamel technique that became popular after World War II.

The shop hadn't made enamel signs before. Researching and learning the process "took nine months to a year, through lots of nightmares and mistakes," said Weber.

John Killmaster, a longtime art professor at Boise State University who knew the technique, lent his expertise. The Webers built a special kiln for the project.

Counties submitted ideas for imagery for their seals.

After receiving a preponderance of gold miners and crossed picks and shovels, the shop asked for - and got - a little more creative license to come up with designs.

The result is a series of unique seals on street lamps. They begin in alphabetical order with Ada and Adams County at the Statehouse on Jefferson Street and continue south on Capitol Boulevard until Front Street.

The seals measure about 2 feet across. They pay tribute to each county's special traits. The seal for Washington County pictures a Weiser fiddler. Lincoln County's features an Abe Lincoln top hat levitating over a tractor. Blaine County's seal depicts Mount Baldy. Caribou County has a geyser for Soda Springs. An atom decorates the seal for Butte County, home to Atomic City.

Back in 1990, when all the seals were in place, local Boy Scouts made covers out of pillow cases for each one. Kempthorne drove up the boulevard in a Model T and unveiled them.

Capitol Boulevard between Jefferson and Front Streets.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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