It was important that people would get the flavor of Idaho so, of course, the developers of the exhibit went to Spokane to find an architect. We shouldn’t be too hard on them for not choosing an Idaho architect, though. The pickings were slim in 1893, and K.K. Cutter, of Spokane, was the foremost architect in the Pacific Northwest.
Cutter had received his education in New York, but it was the architecture of Europe from which he drew much influence. The Idaho Building would not look out of place in Austria or Switzerland. Or Sun Valley, some years later.
The building itself was all Idaho, using 22 types of lumber, all from Shoshone County. Stone work came from Nez Perce County, and the foundation veneer of lava rock was from southern Idaho.
The interior was uniquely Idaho. A frying pan clock with golden hands was set to Idaho time. The men’s reception room had a hunting knife for a latch. Some chairs were made from antlers and mountain lion skins. Guests drank from silver cups made in Idaho, until most of them disappeared. There was needlework from the ladies of Albion, watercolors of Idaho wildflowers from Post Falls, fossil rocks from Boise, and a mastodon tusk from Blackfoot.
The Columbian Exposition was billed as the “White City,” with most structures following that theme. The Idaho building stuck out like… a huge cabin surrounded by marble.
As anyone who ever played with Lincoln Logs as a kid knows, cabins—even gigantic cabins—can be taken apart and rebuilt again somewhere else. That’s what happened to the Idaho Building. At the end of the Exposition it was sold at auction and moved to Wisconsin where it was to be used on Lake Geneva as a retreat for orphaned boys. The wealthy owner who had it rebuilt on the lakeshore lost interest in the project, so the orphans never saw the building. It was used for a time as a residence for laborers building a road, then for ice storage. Somehow it got the reputation as being haunted by “Idaho cowboys.” That did not raise its resale value. In 1911, the building was torn down. Some of the logs were used for a municipal pier. The rest of the building seemed to vanish along with those ghosts.