Boise & Garden City

The Cabin will move to make room for Boise’s library. Where? Boise’s City Council balks

The Cabin, built in 1940, is the only example in Boise of what’s known as Finnish log construction, said Frank Eld, a member of Preservation Idaho’s board of directors. This style of construction requires no chinking because builders cut the logs so precisely that there’s no space between them when they’re stacked on top of each other, Eld said.
The Cabin, built in 1940, is the only example in Boise of what’s known as Finnish log construction, said Frank Eld, a member of Preservation Idaho’s board of directors. This style of construction requires no chinking because builders cut the logs so precisely that there’s no space between them when they’re stacked on top of each other, Eld said.

In a 4-2 decision Tuesday, the Boise City Council voted to move The Cabin, a 78-year-old log structure south of the main library on Capitol Boulevard. What the council didn’t decide is where the building will go.

The proposal to move it stems from the city’s multiyear effort to replace its main library branch, a decades-old former warehouse just north of the Boise River between Capitol Boulevard and 8th Street.

City staffers presented three options for the building’s next location, assuming the move goes through. One is to put The Cabin north of Julia Davis Park and northeast of the Black History Museum. Another would put it slightly south of that, just east of the museum. The third option is to move The Cabin deeper into the park, northwest of the Gene Harris Bandshell, where it would face Julia Davis Park Drive and, just a few feet west of that, Capitol Boulevard.

Council members Scot Ludwig, Lauren McLean, T.J. Thomson and Holli Woodings voted in favor of moving The Cabin. Councilwomen Elaine Clegg and Lisa Sanchez voted against it. Sanchez said she wants to leave The Cabin where it is. Ludwig said he’s open to other location options, too.

Each option has pros and cons. To begin with, historic preservationists don’t want the building to move. They say that would sacrifice its historic context. Frank Eld, a member of nonprofit group Preservation Idaho’s board of directors, said moving The Cabin would forfeit an opportunity to do something really special: incorporate it into the new library’s design.

But leaders of The Cabin, the organization, worry the new library building, as preliminarily designed by world-famous architect Moshe Safdie, would cramp the outdoor space the academy has used for events. They also worry about noise from construction of the new library.

Safdie’s design would put the south side of the new library 35 feet north of The Cabin’s north wall. An outdoor pavilion would come within 10 feet.

Safdie’s team wants to move The Cabin, too. They want the library’s south side to give people the impression that they’re part of the river scene from inside the the building. The Cabin would interfere with that goal.

The Cabin’s leaders don’t really like any of the options they’re facing, Executive Director Kurt Zwolfer told the council Tuesday. The “best bad option,” Zwolfer said, is the location northeast of the Black History Museum.

Council members seemed reluctant to authorize such a move, partly because it would take up a piece of a 2.2-acre lot northeast of the museum that the city owns. Boise Parks and Recreation stores equipment and materials on that lot for use in maintenance of parks. The city expects that lot to be developed someday, though no specific plans exist, Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said after Tuesday’s vote.

Councilwoman Lauren McLean said she preferred the location near the bandshell because it would make The Cabin more visible to the general public, particularly traffic on Capitol Boulevard.

The city expects moving The Cabin to cost $650,000. The council is scheduled to revisit the issue in early January.

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