The century-old sequoia at St. Luke’s moved to its new home at Fort and Garrison Streets late Saturday night to make way for the hospital’s Downtown Boise expansion.
The move sparks memories of other times when big things in Boise have moved from their original locations and found new homes. Even the Pittenger house, the center of the grand Boise estate where the sequoia was planted in 1912, moved from Boise to Caldwell in 1964 after the death of its owner, Dr. Fred Pittenger. The St. Luke’s Downtown hospital campus grew up around the tree.
The list of big moves includes houses and buildings mostly, such as the four houses that moved in 2015 from the Central Addition neighborhood near Julia Davis Park to new spots in Boise’s North End and beyond. Then there’s Pioneer Village, the compound on the grounds of the Idaho State Historical Society in Julia Davis Park. The houses there, including that of Thomas Logan (mayor of Boise in the 1870s), were originally built at 6th and Grove and moved to the park in 1933.
More recent moves include the Knudsen House, the former home of Morris Knudsen, who co-founded Morrison-Knudsen, the international engineering and construction firm. His house moved a few blocks west on Franklin Street in 2014 to make room for a parking garage near Idaho’s Capitol.
But other big things, including statues, houses of worship and even a locomotive, have also traveled the city streets on their way to new homes.
Here are a few of Boise’s memorable moves.
Ahavath Beth Israel
Moved from 11th and State streets to 11 N. Latah St. in 2003
The synagogue was built in 1895 when there were only 25 Jewish families in Boise. By the end of the 20th century, the city’s Jewish population had grown. The congregation needed a bigger building. There wasn’t room on the synagogue’s tiny lot across from the Downtown Boise Family YMCA, so “in the middle of a cold October night,” as the Idaho Statesman reported in 2003, the historic building moved from Downtown to the Boise Bench.
Preparing the Moorish-style building for the move took weeks. One nice surprise: a licorice box “time capsule” unearthed near the synagogue’s front door. It contained lists of financial supporters of the building, including Levi Strauss & Co. and Marshall Field, founder of the Chicago department store. It also contained an Oct. 4, 1895, copy of the Idaho Statesman detailing the original construction cost of $3,000, copies of legal papers establishing the congregation, and coins — some dating back to 1840.
Hundreds of people, including congregation members who carried a copy of the Torah, walked alongside the 31-by-61-foot, 60-ton building as a truck hauled it 3 miles to its new site in the middle of the night. An advance crew raised or removed power lines and tree branches to clear the pathway. Dan Fink, the congregation’s rabbi, told the Jewish World Review at the time that the move was orchestrated “like a ballet.”
Big Mike, the steam locomotive
Moved from the 3rd Street entrance to Julia Davis Park to the Boise Depot in 2007
If the recent visit of the Union Pacific 844 is any indication, the Treasure Valley loves its historic steam locomotives. Big Mike, built in 1920, is no exception. Boise’s Big Mike ran for decades, hauling freight along the Union Pacific’s main line from North Platte, Neb., to Idaho. Big Mike was the last steam engine to operate regularly in Southern Idaho. Union Pacific retired the locomotive and donated it to the city in 1956. It stood at the northern entrance of Julia Davis Park for 48 years.
In December 2007, after city leaders and residents decided Big Mike deserved a more prominent location, crews moved the locomotive to the east side of the Boise Depot. Again, hundreds of people came out to watch the move, which happened on a chilly December morning.
The steam engine was suspended between two tractor-trailer rigs and pulled up the hill. The trip started at 3 a.m. and took less than an hour. The toughest part of the move, said officials at the time, was backing the old steam engine out of Julia Davis Park and turning onto Front Street.
The Idaho Transportation Department awarded $309,000 in federal funds for the entire project, which included moving the historic locomotive, preservation efforts, construction of the new plaza and interpretive signs. Private donations also supported the restoration of Big Mike.
Christ Chapel at Boise State University
Moved from 7th and Bannock streets to the North End and finally to the Boise State campus in 1963
Christ Chapel, the tiny white church that sits near Albertsons Stadium just off Broadway, has moved twice.
Back in 1866, just three years after the city of Boise was platted, Episcopalian women raised the $2,450 to build the church on the southwest corner of 7th and Bannock streets — now the site of a parking garage. The church was first named St. Michael’s in honor of the Rev. Saint Michael Fackler, who led the original congregation. It was renamed Christ Chapel when St. Michael’s Cathedral opened in 1902 at 8th and State streets. The congregation then moved the small white church to 15th and Ridenbaugh. It sat in Boise’s North End until 1963, when Boiseans raised the money to move the church to its present site.
According to the July 9, 1963, Idaho Statesman, the move from 15th Street to Boise State took more than eight hours and required removing the chapel’s steeple so it could clear electrical wires. An Idaho Power employee perched atop the building during the trip, said the paper, lifting the wires over the church with the help of a hydraulic hoist and a couple of co-workers.
Christ Chapel was rededicated as a nondenominational historic shrine in 1964. The chapel and its historic windows were restored during the recent Broadway Bridge construction.
Some other big moves
Idaho Black History Museum: Built in 1921 as St. Paul’s Baptist Church on the north end of Broadway Avenue near what’s now Dona Larsen Park, it moved to Julia Davis Park and became home to the museum in 1998.
The Bishops House: Built in 1889 on the corner of 2nd and Idaho Streets as an Episcopal rectory, it was threatened with demolition in the 1970s. Residents raised money to move it to Old Penitentiary Road, where it sits today. The preservation effort earned an Orchid Award from Preservation Idaho in 1981.
10 Commandments Monument: Given to the city by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1965, the stone tablet stood in Julia Davis Park for nearly four decades until it became the center of a big controversy: whether or not a religious monument belonged in a city park. After bitter protests, St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral offered to place the monument on its front lawn, just north of the Idaho Capitol. It moved there in 2006.
Rudy: The giant white rooster statue perched above Jim’s Coffee Shop on Fort Street in Boise’s North End from the 1960s until 2016, when the coffee shop closed. Boise restaurateur Nick West reinstalled the famous fowl atop the Capri Restaurant, 2520 W. Fairview Ave. West kept Rudy’s actual installation quiet. He told only 10 people or so. But 100 or more people showed up to watch Rudy get hoisted aloft at midnight on March 31. They cheered.
Obscure, but cool
MK Bucyrus-Erie B3: The 1930s-era shovel owned by Morrison-Knudsen, the giant construction company started in Boise, likely dug canals in the local area. It stood at the former MK Plaza at Broadway and Park Boulevard for decades, throughout the company’s reinventions, eventually into URS Corp. URS donated the shovel, described as “one of a vanishing breed of workhorses,” to the Idaho Transportation Department in 2012. Movers loaded it only a lowboy trailer and pulled it to ITD headquarters at 3311 W. State. in West Boise.
“Point of Origin”: The 1978 sculpture by John Mason stands on the grounds of the Boise Art Museum. It was the first work of public art ever commissioned by the city of Boise. It was not popular in its original location, City Hall Plaza, and moved to Julia Davis Park.
Streetcar shelter at Ivywild Park: Dee Pogue donated the old streetcar shelter to the city. Formerly known as the Ivywild Station, it originally stood on Broadway near Richmond Street and provided shelter for residents riding the South Boise line until the streetcar system came to an end in 1928. For a time, the shelter was used by the Boise Tour Train in Julia Davis Park. The city moved the shelter in 2013 to Ivywild Park in Southeast Boise. It became part of a public art installation by architect and artist Byron Folwell, who created a steel “ghost trolley” that stands beside the historic structure.
Lincoln statue on the Capitol Mall: Today you’ll find a statue of Abraham Lincoln, who signed the act that created the Idaho Territory in 1863, standing near the Idaho State Capitol on Jefferson Street. But the 1915 statue’s first home was on the grounds of the Old Soldiers Home where Veterans Memorial State Park is today. When the home was torn down in the 1970s, the Civil War-era president moved to the Veterans Administration at Old Fort Boise. When the VA expanded in 2009, Lincoln was on the road again, at last to the Capitol Mall.
Follow the conversation about “movable Boise” on the Boise & The Treasure Valley History’s Facebook page.
For two women, a personal move
Among the many who will watch the big St. Luke’s sequoia move and settle into its new spot will be two Boise women with a particular interest.
Mary Grandjean is the granddaughter of Emile Grandjean, the Idaho forester who created a game preserve on the south fork of the Payette River (where Grandjean is now located). According to the family story, Emile received four sequoia seedlings sent to Idaho from California by celebrated environmentalist John Muir. Grandjean planted two seeds at his home on N. 11th St. in Boise’s North End and gave two to the Pittenger family. They planted the two sequoias at their estate near what’s now Jefferson and Avenue B.
“The tree has always been a part of my family’s history, and we are watching the move with great interest,” said Grandjean.
Georgia Wells-White, owner of Boise At Its Best Florist, also has a particular link to the big tree. After its original owner, Dr. Fred Pittenger, died in 1964, the Pittenger house was slated for demolition.
“They had the wrecking ball out there getting ready to tear it down. My mom drove by and ended up buying it. I think for $10,000. My dad was on a hunting trip and found out when he got home,” said Wells-White.
The house was dismantled, its roof in five pieces, and moved to the corner of Wells and Lincoln roads outside of Caldwell, where Wells-White spent her childhood. The house still stands and is no longer in the Wells family.
Even though the sequoia stayed behind in Boise, Wells-White has always felt a deep affection for it.
“I love that tree. We have always had a connection with it. I’ve watched it my entire life,” said Wells-White.
“It’s not really my tree. But it is my tree.”
Big moves, by the numbers
98 feet: Height of Idaho’s giant sequoia
60 tons: Weight of Synagogue Ahavath Beth Israel
7 feet: Height of Rudy the Rooster
463,000 pounds: Big Mike’s engine weight
3: Number of places in the city where the 1915 Abraham Lincoln statue has been installed
30 feet: Height of Christ Chapel as it was hauled through Boise (even with its steeple removed)
4: The number of California sequoia seedlings that environmentalist John Muir gave to Idaho forester Emile Grandjean around 1912; only the St. Luke’s sequoia survives
Sequoia on the move
The sequoia tree is scheduled to move from Jefferson Street and Avenue B across Fort Street to the corner of Garrison Street late Saturday night and into early Sunday morning. The tree will be placed Sunday near the Boise Little Theatre.
St. Luke’s is asking people to watch the process from the grassy area at Fort Boise Park along the back of the ballfield directly across Fort Street from the tree. Parking is limited, so those who can walk or ride a bike are asked to do so. Also, the area around St. Luke’s is a no-fly zone. Personal drones will not be allowed during the tree’s move because they pose a serious risk to Air St. Luke’s and other medical transport helicopters.
When it’s time for the tree to move across Fort Street, the road will be temporarily closed. Drivers in the area and people attending events at Fort Boise Park should allow for extra time and a detour.