150 Boise icons: James A. McClure Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse

awebb@idahostatesman.comJune 15, 2013 

Did you know? This complex is all about attention to architectural detail. Note the structure in the north parking lot that houses the building’s mechanical systems. It echoes the grid pattern on the larger building. The building’s entrance is a post 9-11 addition. The building was named for Sen. James McClure in 2001. McClure died in 2011.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

It must have been an interesting transition in 1965 when federal court operations moved from the 1900s-era federal building at 8th and Bannock to the new courthouse at Fort and 6th Streets.

The old building, now the Borah Post Office, is a solid structure of sandstone and brick. The new building, now the James A. McClure Federal Building, was "on trend" with architecture styles of the time, said Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho. Its sleek international style features clean lines and lots of glass.

Third-generation Boise architect Charles Hummel partnered with a Los Angeles firm to design it.

For a time, said Everhart, some considered building the new courthouse on the land that's now Capitol Park just south of the statehouse. Business leaders liked the idea of keeping workers and their wallets in the Downtown core. Officials settled on a corner of the military reserve on Fort Street instead, where the federal government already owned land.

Hummel intended that for all its modern style, the building would relate to its surroundings. He designed the first floor of the building to be raised. Massive windows allow a 360-degree view of the surrounding neighborhood, including the historic Fort Boise complex.

The exterior walls are not structural. They have the appearance of suspension. Interviewed by the Statesman in 2006, Hummel said:

"We wanted the building to assert itself, not to be comfortable. It's a challenging building. That's the idea. If a U.S. courthouse doesn't assert itself, it's not much of a courthouse."

550 W. Fort St.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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