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He tore down an old building. Wartime boxes held up the walls. Here’s what they held

Boise find: Hidden military history

Colby Patchin, a Boise business owner, found hundreds of empty ammo boxes when he tore down an old building on his Garden City property.
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Colby Patchin, a Boise business owner, found hundreds of empty ammo boxes when he tore down an old building on his Garden City property.

Construction and demolition projects often come with surprises. Colby Patchin, owner of Boise Pottery, got an interesting one when crews demolished an old building on his property at 3831 Chinden Blvd. in Garden City.

They found nearly 400 empty wooden munitions boxes that made up the interiors of the building’s walls.

Patchin is moving Boise Pottery from its current site at 102 N. Orchard St. in Boise to the new location — the former site of Garden City Furniture, which closed in 2017. The old boxes are now stacked up inside another building on the site that will remain.

“I knew I had something special,” Patchin said.

Empty boxes
The old wooden boxes found inside a wall of a Garden City building once held anti-tank mines. Now their new owner, Colby Patchin, who found them on his property, is eager to find collectors who might be interested in the boxes. awebb@idahostatesman.com Anna Webb

The boxes, as their painted black and yellow labels attest, once held anti-tank mines and fuses (spelled “fuze” on the boxes). A few have yellowed instruction cards pinned inside that tell a user to “place mine on ground, roadway, etc. (fuze side up).”

Jeff Packer, director and chief curator of the Idaho Military Museum in Boise, said he believes the boxes were made during World War II or the Korean War. It was common, he said, for people in communities near military bases to repurpose old ammo boxes and other items as building materials. The Gowen Field site was authorized as an air base in 1940.

But finding 400 boxes in one place is “a little higher than what you’ll normally see,” Packer said.

Patchin is trying to figure out what the boxes are worth and what to do with them. Boxes of this sort appeal to collectors and military re-enactors, he said.

The demolition turned up other prizes, including massive square wooden beams that one of Packer’s relatives, a woodworker, is turning into tables.

Patchin plans a grand opening for Boise Pottery in the spring.

Anna Webb: 208-377-6431

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