150 Boise icons: The MK Bucyrus-Erie B3

June 10, 2013 

Did you know? The Bucyrus-Erie B3 sits near the entrance of the Idaho Transportation Department. The building, built in 1961, is historically significant in its own right. Boise architect Charles Hummel designed it in the international style, one that became popular in the mid-20th century.

KATHERINE JONES — Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesma

This historic shovel, built in Milwaukee in the 1920s, is a tangible connection to the early days of Boise-born Morrison-Knudsen Co.

Harry Morrison and Morris Knudsen founded their construction and engineering company in 1912. As legend has it, the two began with $600, some horses, a few wheelbarrows and Fresno scrapers - machines that moved dirt to build canals and ditches.

But by the 1950s, MK had major projects around the world, including the Hoover and Grand Coulee Dams and the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Time magazine recognized Morrison in 1954 as "the man who has done more than anyone else to change the face of the earth."

Morrison-Knudsen diversified in the following decades into the space program, mining and more.

The Bucyrus-Erie B3 harks back to a more modest time. The company bought it in 1931 (around the same time MK was starting work on the Hoover Dam) for just over $9,000.

The shovel is notable for its wooden cab and tracks akin to those on a tank. Historians believe MK put it to work building canals and railroads in the area.

The B3 stood on the former MK Plaza at Broadway and Park Boulevard through the company's reincarnations into Washington Group International and, more recently, URS Corp.

After URS offered to donate the B3, the ITD gave it a new home. In 2012, crews loaded the B3 onto a lowboy trailer and carried it across town to ITD's State Street headquarters at 3311 W. State St. It stands near the building's front entrance.

An official there fondly described the B3 as one of a "vanishing breed of workhorses."

Another MK-related site:

The 4-foot-tall sandstone memorial exists thanks to the efforts of Noah Barnes, a prospective Eagle Scout, whose great-grandfather, MK employee Loren H. Hance, was captured on Wake Island and died in a Japanese prison. The U.S. government recognized the civilians as veterans in 1981.

930 N. Veterans Memorial Parkway

Learn more:

- Boise 150: "Boise's Big Business: A brief history of Morrison-Knudsen Construction Company": 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Boise Public Library's Cole branch, 7557 W. Ustick Road. Jim Duran presents a multimedia history. Free.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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