150 Boise icons: U.S. Bank building

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 10, 2013 

Did you know? The 3-decade-old U.S. Bank earned its LEED Gold certification in 2009. In 2003, the building lit its windows for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.


The U.S. Bank building, built in 1978, had the honor of being the tallest building in Idaho for more than 30 years. It stands 267 feet tall.

The brick skyscraper lost its title when the Boise Airport opened its new air traffic control tower in 2010 at 268 feet.

The Zions Bank Building, now under construction at 8th and Main, will be taller than both when it's complete, at 323 feet.

But the U.S. Bank building will always have the honor of being one of the first skyscrapers in Downtown Boise. Idaho First National Bank was its first occupant. The bank morphed into West One in 1989 and became U.S. Bank in 1995. Unico, a Seattle firm, bought the building in 2000.

"Emkay Development and Realty Co., a subsidiary of Morrison-Knudsen, built it - a homegrown builder for a homegrown bank," said property manager Liz Fitzgerald.

The brick building has 20 floors (following skyscraper tradition, there is no 13th floor).

"We also have a permanent framework for our rooftop Christmas tree," said Fitzgerald.

The building's iconic tree lights the night sky every winter. Eight workers attach metal arcs to a retractable 12-foot "spine" until the tree reaches a height of 85 feet. More than 3,500 LED lights illuminate it.

The structure is so high, the FAA requires Unico to keep the tree lit all night so Life Flight pilots can see it clearly.

Weather determines when the tree comes down, said Fitzgerald. In a brutal winter like 2012, cables freeze. Strong winds are dangerous for workers on ladders, so the tree stays up.

Sometimes, special circumstances keep the tree lit beyond the Yuletide season.

When Idaho hosted the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games, Unico kept the tree lit through the entire competition.

"People called it the Special Olympics party hat," said Fitzgerald.

The building does not have public areas or viewing galleries, but Unico gives rooftop tours on occasion. The company has hosted rooftop parties for day-care groups and let high school photography classes take pictures from its towering heights.

101 S. Capitol Blvd.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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