In September 1910, Gov. James Brady was the principal speaker at the laying of the cornerstone of the new First Christian Church. The building was designed by New York architect George W. Kramer, who has been described as the principal proponent of the Akron Plan of church design, in which the main entrance to the square auditorium is at one corner and the pulpit is at the opposite corner. The seating for the congregation is in a semicircular form facing the pulpit. Large sliding doors on the left of this space open into a main Sunday schoolroom flanked by small classrooms. When the doors are open this large space serves as an extension of the auditorium.
Like most of Boise's early denominations, the Christian Church had modest beginnings. On Feb. 10, 1887, the Idaho Statesman reported: "The members of the Christian Church have succeeded in effecting an organization in Boise City, and Dr. E.W. Barnes has been called to the pulpit for six months. The church starts with a membership of 15, with fair prospects of doubling this number before many weeks."
By November 1889, W.R. Spindler of Cleveland, Ohio, was the new pastor of the Christian Church, and in the absence of a building of their own the congregation was holding services in Capital Hall.
In 1891 Spindler was able to write to the Christian Standard magazine of August 8 "We can safely say that our building is assured. The lot on which it will be located is well-situated on what promises to be the finest street in the city, two blocks from the capitol building." That first building, located at the corner of Fourth and Jefferson, was dedicated Dec. 20, 1891, by F.M. Walden of Tacoma, Wash. W.F. Cowden, superintendent of missions for the Pacific Northwest, described the new church as "a plain, neat structure, handsomely finished and furnished, costing about $3,000 and seating about 300 persons." There were only 17 members at the time, but by January 1892, the number had grown to 30, even though the church had no regular pastor at that time.
As was usually the case, it was the women of the congregation who actively raised money for their church. In August 1893: "The ladies of the Christian Church will serve ice cream, cake, and ices at the corner of Seventh and Main streets on Tuesday, August 8, afternoon and evening."
By 1905 the First Christian Church had moved to the southwest corner of Ninth and Franklin. In May 1908 the Statesman reported that Elder A. Chapman of Seattle was the new pastor, and that the Christians were considering building a new church. "According to a member of the church the new pastor begins his labors under very auspicious circumstances. The church for some time has been under the immediate charge of Elder H.F. Clay of Caldwell. A very successful meeting has been concluded and the church is much stronger in members and finances than ever before. One member states that every branch of the church work is thoroughly organized. The congregation feels that with Elder Chapman at its head the Christian Church will in a short time take its place as one of the strong factors for good in the city."
The church the Christians built still stands at Ninth and Franklin streets. Preservation Idaho calls the building "one of the most impressive public spaces in the capital city," It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its cultural and architectural significance. Its fine stained glass windows alone are well worth a visit.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.