Boise’s council and mayor didn’t have a home in the earliest years of the city. It wouldn’t have mattered much if they did because they kept resigning and refusing to serve. Although the city was created in 1863, not everyone was thrilled with the idea of it being a city. It wasn’t until 1867 that a bona fide city council and mayor started meeting. They met wherever they could until the late 1870s when they settled on sharing a site with the volunteer fire department at 619 Main in a former blacksmith shop.
The fire station (irony alert) burned in 1883, so the city built a new, two-story structure called City Hall Station, the second story of which became the home of the city council and mayor. It was where Idaho Blueprint was located for 113 years before closing in 2022.
By 1891, the capital city of a newly minted state needed a new city hall. Voters approved the expenditure of $40,000 to build one. I’ll pause here to let you ruminate over the fact that you’d be hard-pressed to add a garage to a modest house today for that price. Done? Moving on.
City fathers selected Richard Johnson, the architect of the fabled Boise Natatorium, to design the structure. The Romanesque Revival structure was completed in 1893 on the southeast corner of Idaho and 8th streets. The Council chamber on the third floor of the building was decked out in curved oak rafters with a soaring ceiling. It was a building to be proud of.
All things age. By 1947 the functions of the city were crammed into spaces too small to… function. The cellar housed the police department. It was described by The Idaho Statesman as “foul-smelling” and “medieval.”
In 1948, the City of Boise purchased a former Ada County building at 6th and Bannock and converted it into the new City Hall. Meanwhile, after failed attempts to sell the beloved/loathed old City Hall, the red brick building at 8th and Idaho was torn down.
As the Steve Miller Band noted, time keeps slipping into the future. By the late 60s, it was time to start looking for a new city hall site. This time, city leaders picked the entire block between Capitol, 6th, Main, and Idaho streets for a new building. Built in 1975, City Hall has undergone some renovations and narrowly escaped an earthquake disaster. The most recent upgrade was the removal of the flag plaza in front of the building, replacing it with a more accessible, cleaner-looking plaza featuring metal sculptures that the public seems to find more interesting than the controversial metal “window frames” that once lived there.
You’ll find many more photos and much more information on the history of Boise’s city halls, courtesy of Boise Arts and History, at this link.