Tour of Boise rooftops offers a look at the city from a fresh perspective

Tour of Boise rooftops offers a look at the city from a fresh perspective

awebb@idahostatesman.comJune 11, 2013 


    6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, June 15.

    Self-guided walking tour of five rooftops. The tour will take approximately two hours and will go on rain or shine.

    Attendees will be able to check out historic photos and blueprints of featured buildings. Volunteers will share historic information.

    The event, which is geared toward adults, includes hors d'oeuvres, music and no-host bars on rooftops.

    • Tickets: $35 members, $40 nonmembers.

    • Online registration closes Tuesday at midnight. Follow the link at

    • You can pay at the door with cash, check or credit/debit card, but you must RSVP online. (Select the option to mail a check or pay at the door).

    • Start location will be emailed to registrants.

    • Questions? 424-5111.

  • A few notes about buildings on the rooftop tour:

    • The Owyhee Plaza (11th and Main) is in the midst of a remodel to restore some of its historic interior features as well as its once-famous roof garden. Tour attendees will be able to see renderings of what owner Clay Carley intends for the 1910 structure.

    After the hotel opened, other builders looked to its roof garden as inspiration, said Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho. That included the builders of the White Savage apartments at 13th and Washington. When the apartments opened in 1912, renters had their own rooftop garden to enjoy.

    • The Empire Building (10th and Idaho) was the Boise icon featured in Sunday's paper. Historian Barbara Perry Bauer noted its exterior detail - the simplified Greek key design just below its roofline, the decorative brick details - as things you shouldn't miss during the tour.

    • Plaza 121 (905 Idaho St.) First Security built this bank in 1956, early in the "Mad Men" era. Boise experienced a growth spurt between 1950 and 1956, said Perry Bauer. This new bank was a result.

    It was the first bank in town to have a time and temperature display. In 2005 Cole and Poe Architects renovated and expanded the building. Improvements included the public courtyard on its 9th Street side.

    • Jefferson Place (the Elks Building at 310 Jefferson St.) The Elks were chartered in Boise in 1894, just 30 years after the city was platted. They met in various Downtown buildings before building their Jefferson Street home in 1913. Tourtellotte and Hummel designed the lodge in the "palazzo" style characterized by a sense of weight and symmetry. The Elks lodge filled the top floors. A printing company operated on the ground floor.

A famous old map of Boise featuring a bird's-eye view of the city gave historian Barbara Perry Bauer the inspiration for "Up on the Roof: A Birdseye View of Boise."

The self-guided tour hosted by Preservation Idaho takes place Saturday evening in Downtown Boise.

"We were looking for a different kind of event," said Perry Bauer, who joined the Preservation Idaho board this year.

Those who attend will venture to rooftops that are usually closed to the public, including the Owyhee Plaza, the Empire Building, Plaza 121, Jefferson Place and the parking garage at 9th and Bannock. The Idaho Statesman is a sponsor of the event.

Lining up buildings to tour was tricky, said Dan Everhart, a Preservation Idaho spokesman. Initially, the list of possible sites was long.

"But most buildings aren't designed to have 100 people standing on their roof," Everhart said. "That quickly brought everyone back to reality."

They honed their list to five.

Parking garages can handle a lot of weight. And lest you think that such a structure is boring, consider that the garage at 9th and Bannock offers unexpected views of historic structures such as the Hoff Building and the Statehouse. On Saturday, jazz notes will also climb through the fresh air.

The tour includes a different musical genre at each stop - jazz in the parking garage, tunes from the 1940s and '50s at another stop, music from the Vinyl Preservation Society at another.

The rooftop tour is happening at an interesting time, when the Boise skyline is changing in big ways, said Perry Bauer.

Major construction projects like JUMP on Myrtle Street and the Zions Bank building going up in the former "Boise Hole" at 8th and Main will profoundly alter the city's appearance.

"We are trying to give people a new perspective on history, getting them to look up and around a little bit," Perry Bauer said.

The Saturday event is a fundraiser for the organization that hosts statewide history events and programs.

Local events include the annual Heritage Homes tour (Oct. 6 in the Boise Highlands) and the ArchWalks throughout the summer. The group also works with historians-to-be through the Boise Architecture Project at Boise High School.

"Preservation of historic buildings gives us a sense of place," said Perry Bauer, "especially in this sesquicentennial year."

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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