Idaho History: Shoshone’s central core makes up a unique historic district

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANFebruary 9, 2014 

In 1972, I had the opportunity, in my dual role as director of the Idaho State Historical Museum and its architectural historian, of visiting Shoshone many times to study its buildings and to get acquainted with its people.

The result of my study was the creation of a historic district in the central part of town that was recognized by the National Park Service for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places on June 27, 1975. There are 37 buildings in the district, including 13 described as “worthy of note.”

Heading the list is the Lincoln County Courthouse. The Shoshone Journal pointed out the urgent need for a courthouse on December 19, 1902, noting that Lincoln County had been created in March 1895 but had never had a proper place to perform its functions. On May 23, 1903, the paper announced that the contract to build the courthouse had been let to O.J. Brennan for $17,100. The dedication of what was now the pride of Shoshone took place in conjunction with the 1904 Fourth of July celebration.

Other buildings on the list include the Methodist Church of 1905, the Masonic Hall and the Episcopal Church, both of 1902. Bishop Funsten came down from Boise to consecrate Christ Episcopal church on Sunday, November 16, 1902. The Fred Gooding house of 1901 was designed by noted Boise architect W.S. Campbell, a native of Scotland. (The most notable of his buildings still standing is the Idanha Hotel in Boise.) Ed Gooding built a bungalow in 1912, and at about that time Frank R. Gooding, most famous of the English-born Gooding brothers, also built a house in Shoshone in the popular Colonial style of the time. Frank R. Gooding served in the Idaho legislature from 1898 until 1904, was governor of Idaho from 1905 until 1908, and was a United States Senator from 1921 until 1928. The city and county of Gooding are named for him.

Another building on the “worthy of note” list was heralded in 1909 when the Shoshone Journal reported: “The Catholics of Shoshone are working up their plans for the building of a fine church that will cost from $15,000 to $20,000. As the stone is on the ground it is likely they will build in that material, although they would prefer brick. These worthy people have worked long and earnestly for the accomplishment of this purpose, and now that they have come so near to the actual building they are to be encouraged and congratulated.”

As a railroad junction point, Shoshone needed lodging places for travelers, the most prominent of which was the McFall Hotel. On September 19, 1900, the Idaho Statesman described it in glowing terms as “a modern hostelry in every respect” with “elegant rooms and splendid kitchen and dining room service,” but when I first visited it in 1972 it had been enlarged several times over the years into what I described as “a labyrinth.” A new owner planned to restore it to its 1912 state.

Nearly all of Shoshone’s early buildings were built of the black basaltic stone that was the most notable feature of the landscape for many square miles around the town. In 1904, Ignacio Berriochoa, a Basque immigrant from northern Spain, arrived in Idaho. After moving to Shoshone in 1910, he was soon recognized as one of the most skilled stonemasons in Lincoln County. In 1983, a thematic group titled “Lava Rock Structures in South Central Idaho” was placed in the National Register of Historic Places. Most of these structures were the work of Berriochoa.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@mindspring.com.

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