Question: We’ve noticed some construction going on at City Hall, what’s going on?
Answer: The construction downtown sure is hard to miss, isn’t it? Yes, City Hall is being renovated. The construction started this winter and all three phases are expected to take approximately six years overall. This stage will be finished in December 2012. The work will bring the building up-to-date with seismic building standards and fire codes. Officials say that doing the work now will ensure the building’s safe use for another thirty years. But what we do around here is history, and the renovation provides an excellent chance for reflection, it’s the perfect chance to take a look back at Boise’s old City Hall and the Mayor who commissioned it.
In 1893 Boise opened its new city hall, located at the southeast corner of 8th and Idaho. It was commissioned by the mayor, James A. Pinney, and designed and built by James C. Paulsen, an architect from Montana. Built in the Rhenish Revival Style, it elegantly combined Gothic and Romanesque elements, using stone and red-bricks. As the city grew, the building simply outgrew its function. And so the building was put up for sale in 1948 but it was demolished in 1953, after having been (mis)used for several make-shift purposes.
Gold attracted Mr. Pinney to the Boise area initially, but it was his business ventures that kept him here. After having run and managed several general stores in Oregon and in Idaho City, Pinney decided to open his own store in Boise. The City Book Store opened in 1869, described by the Statesmen as a “mammoth bookstore,” it was the first but not the only business venture Pinney undertook. After having managed the Sonna Opera House for a number of years he decided to build a theater. In 1892, Pinney hired James C. Paulsen, the same architect that built City Hall, to design the Columbia. In 1908 he opened the Pinney Theater just across the street from the old Columbia, which was demolished that same year (check out our site for some fantastic images and a little more history on theater in early Boise). The Pinney Theater continued on and was eventually converted into a movie theater, but it was razed in 1968 under the auspices of urban renewal.
Mayor Pinney has been called the “father” of modern Boise because of his resounding influence on the growth of the city around him through politics, and, as we can see, through architecture as well. In 1876 the Statesman described him as “one of Idaho’s best and most beloved pioneers.”
Have a question about Boise’s history? Ask a Historian.