>Idaho Capitol Building

Idaho Capitol Building

Location: In Boise between State and Jefferson Streets, 6th & 8th Streets

History: For almost two decades, Idaho's territorial government was housed in various private buildings around downtown Boise. After failed efforts to get the federal government to fund a capitol building, the territorial legislature finally agreed in 1885 to appropriate $80,000 for a territorial capitol. The red-brick structure, located on the block between Jefferson and State and Sixth and Seventh streets, served not only the last four years of territorial government(1886-1890) but the first twenty-two years of statehood. In 1905, as the state's population mushroomed with the advent of federally funded irrigation projects, a Capitol Building Commission was authorized. In addition to receiving detailed instructions from the Legislature on where and how to build the new Capitol building, the commission was expected also to build a new, separate structure to provide heat and electricity. Nothing was said about indoor plumbing, though the territorial capitol was served by an outhouse. All was to be paid for from the sale of public lands designated for this purpose in the statehood admission act, plus the $66,003.35 then in the Public Building Endowment Fund, for a total of $350,000. Despite the provisions of the 1905 law, the final cost was $2,098,455.05 for the structure and $130,833.10 for interior furnishings.

The Boise architectural firm of J. E. Tourtellotte and Company won the competition to design the new capitol; construction began in the summer of 1906, The capitol's central section was completed late in 1912, and offices were moved over at that time. The 1913 inauguration of Gov. John M. Haines was held in the new building. Tourtellotte and Hummel-successor to the original firm-had already been awarded a contract to design east and west wings. Their construction began in1919; the whole capitol was completed by the end of 1920.

The state Capitol building is nearing its 100th birthday, and plans are being made to renevate the whole bulding in time for itís centennial bash in 2005. The estimate for the renovation is between $35 and $65 million. The Idaho Capitol Commission has been directed to launch a private fund-raising drive to try to recruit corporate and other donors to help cover the coasts. The Commission is also looking a other fund-raising ideas such as the sale of special license plates. While still in the planning stages, there may be a whole new floor open to the public in the top of the dome area, and magnificent new vistas of downtown Boise from new public rooms on the Capitolís south side. Much of the restoration work will involve overhauling the heating and air conditioning systems as well as the plumbing and electrical systems. Repairs will be made to the fragile "scagliola," or faux marble laid by Italian artisans, doorknobs, light fixtures, legislative chamber furnishings, and even the sandstone exterior.

Interesting points: The major external construction material was sandstone, obtained from a quarry on Table Rock just east of Boise that the state purchased for use on the capitol. Labor in cutting and moving the stone came from inmates at the state penitentiary, which was just below the quarry.

Idahoís Capitol building is the only one in the United States heated by geothermal water. The hot water is tapped and pumped from a source 3,000 feet underground.

Four types of marble were used for the Capitolís interior: Red marble from Georgia, gray from Alaska, green from Vermont, and the black marble is from Italy. Chandeliers were purchased in Chicago that would accommodate both gas and electric lighting.

Statistics: In 1905, the Idaho legislature passed the bill authorizing construction of the Capitol building. The architects of the Capitol Building were J.E. Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel. The dome and central parts of the Capitol were built first, from 1905-1912. The wings (House/Senate chambers) were constructed during 1919 and 1920. The original cost to construct the Capitol was $2.1 million. Replacement costs today would be over $100 million, with many materials considered irreplaceable.

From the first floor to the eagle atop the dome, the Idaho Capitol building rises 208 feet; the floor area of the building when completed was 201,720 square feet. There are over 50,000 square feet of artistically carved marble in the building. The eagle atop the dome stands 5 feet 7 inches, and is made of copper with bronze plating.

For information about and history of the Capitol, visit the Idaho Capitol Commission site. (Link updated April 3, 2007)

Self-guided tours of the Capitol are available. Find out when the building is open.

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