For the past three years, architecture faculty at the University of Idaho have been compiling a special list for the national Society of Architectural Historians — Idaho’s 100 most significant buildings.
The Idaho listings, plus listings from other states, will be part of an online encyclopedia of U.S. architecture, the “SAH Archipedia.”
The first 63 entries (50 main entries and an additional 13 subentries) are now online. Each entry includes a brief essay about the featured building and photos.
The second 50 entries will follow within the year, said Holly Funk, spokeswoman for the University of Idaho College of Art and Architecture/Urban Design Center. Many of the most significant buildings, those requiring the most research, including the Idaho State Capitol, are still to come, said Anne Marshall, a University of Idaho professor who led the building research team which included Professor Emeritus Wendy McClure, Associate Professor Phillip Mead, and Associate Professor Emeritus Nels Reese.
The list includes 14 Boise buildings so far. Among them are the Idanha Hotel (1899-1901), the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga house on the Basque Block (1864) and the Egyptian Theater (1927). Other Treasure Valley listings include two buildings in Nampa, its train depot (1903) and the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho (2003-2004).
After Boise, Moscow follows with 11 listings, including the administration building at the University of Idaho (1906-1908) and the First Presbyterian Church of Moscow (1941-1942).
To compile the list, the U of I team traveled more than 8,000 miles around the state to identify and document notable structures. The team also consulted with students and faculty throughout the state. They considered buildings in four geographic regions and made their selections based on a variety of factors, including a diversity of building uses, religious diversity, style and more.
“Our overarching goal was to identify a collection of buildings that represented the state as broadly as possible,” said Marshall.
Finalizing the list with so many significant buildings was tough, she said.
We all had very different perspectives. We had our ‘candidate’ buildings and made pitches to each other.
Anne Marshall, U of I professor
Marshall’s own “baby” was the Old Sacred Heart Mission in Cataldo built between 1850 and 1853. Jesuit priest Antonio Ravalli, well-versed in Italian architecture, designed the building. Members of the Schitsu’umsh or Coeur d’Alene tribe built the mission based on Ravalli’s design. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe owns the building today.
“The first thing you read about it is that it was made with only the local materials and rough tools. That was indeed the case,” said Marshall. “But it was also a design based on golden section proportions. It is a work of art.”
Marshall said she advocated for diversity in the chosen buildings and wanted to make sure the team represented the state’s ethnic diversity. That meant including the Hispanic Cultural Center in Nampa and the Minidoka Camp, or Hunt Camp, near Jerome where thousands of Japanese Americans were held following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
University of Idaho students also participated in the project, Marshall said. She and another professor gave students the option of writing architectural essays for individual buildings in lieu of traditional class papers. Many took them up on the offer, enlisting their knowledge of buildings in their own communities. More than 25 students took part, some contributing photos and earning co-author credit on the site.
In addition to essays about individual buildings, the online Archipedia also includes a brief write-up of the history of the state and its structures. Idaho’s oldest known architecture is a 5,000-year-old village of 10 semi-subterranean pit houses built by the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) along the Clearwater River. The earliest known nonindigenous buildings in Idaho were wood and clay trading posts built by fur traders in the early 1800s and not destined for eternity.
Boise’s oldest structures are still standing on the grounds of Fort Boise, now the VA Medical Center along Officer’s Row on the north side of the complex. The oldest European-American town in Idaho is Franklin, a pioneer village established in 1860 along the Utah state line by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.