Guest Opinions

When it comes to The Cabin, don’t dismiss the concerns of so many in our community

The Cabin, built in 1940 to honor the 50th anniversary of Idaho’s statehood, is next to the Boise River just south of the main Boise library on Capitol Boulevard. It has been owned by the city since the early 1990s and is leased to a literary group that also calls itself The Cabin.
The Cabin, built in 1940 to honor the 50th anniversary of Idaho’s statehood, is next to the Boise River just south of the main Boise library on Capitol Boulevard. It has been owned by the city since the early 1990s and is leased to a literary group that also calls itself The Cabin. dstaats@idahostatesman.com

As a nonprofit, historic preservation organization, it won’t be a surprise that Preservation Idaho does not support the moving of The Cabin (Idaho State Forester’s Building), a National Register-listed building, in order to accommodate the new library.

We understand that the proposed new library is a significant development for Boise and requires vision to bring it to fruition, and we appreciate the work done thus far by the city to get us to this point.

There has been much talk about the money, the impact of the glass on birds, the decrease in parking that will necessitate the demolition of the historic building where the Foothills School resides, as well as the demolition of the historic warehouse that houses our current library. We know all that matters and we appreciate all the concerns involved. (International architect Moshe Safdie’s firm, along with local company CSHQA, submitted the winning bid to design the library. )

In this discussion, The Cabin, right or wrong, is the only National Register-listed building in the mix, and that matters to many Boiseans. Mr. Safdie stated, in an Idaho Statesman video interview, that The Cabin was “a distraction” and that in a year no one would remember where it was built, and so moving it should not be a problem. He said that “as an outsider” he felt the community “wouldn’t lose anything” and was surprised we would feel it was important.

We appreciate his renown as an architect, but we’re surprised that he would dismiss the concerns of so many in our community. Many citizens do care, are concerned, and have voiced that concern through open houses, surveys and on courbanize.com.

In his design ideas for the Downtown public library, Safdie says other factors are more important than the original location of The Cabin.

Much has been made of the public’s wish to have the new library have a connection with the river; however, Preservation Idaho was told that the library’s original question was not posed to include that it would be at the expense of The Cabin’s location. We believe, given the volume of comments that speak up for keeping the building on-site, that the question was not composed in a way that clarified the true impact of the river connection, and that a more clearly composed question would have a made a difference in the responses.

Another point of clarification is that new site for The Cabin is just south of Myrtle/5th and not near the river at all, so the new site does not have “similar attributes.”

We would ask that Mr. Safdie recognize that being hired by the city of Boise means that he was hired by the citizens of Boise, and we would ask that he be thoughtful about dismissing the concerns of these many educated and informed citizens. We welcome growth and change, but hope that those we hire to take us into the future are open to the development of a partnership of shared values.

With such a gifted architect involved, why not focus on incorporation of the river into the site plan in a way that includes both Boise’s past and its future?

Preservation Idaho is a 46-year-old nonprofit historic preservation organization and a 501(c)3.

In his 2017 State of the City address, Boise Mayor David Bieter described the public library as a city's "conscience." It's time, he said, to rebuild Boise's main branch. It may cost up to $70 million, he said.

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