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Old Fort Boise

Old Fort Boise
Building Location 502 West Fort Street
Boise, Idaho 83702
Downtown Neighborhood
Ada County
Building Status Public
Year Built
Architectural Style Federal Revival
Architect
Type
Material

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Old Fort Boise is considered a historic district containing several of Idaho’s first buildings. It began as a military post in the mid 19th century and presently is the Veterans Administration Hospital. The original Fort Boise was established in 1834 by the Hudson Bay Company for fur trading, and later was moved to the mouth of the Boise River, as it became a major stop on the Oregon Trail. This soon became abandoned in 1855 as Indians became a threat to the fort. Our present day fort was the first actual “Fort Boise” to be constructed by the U.S. Government during Civil War time. In 1863, Major Pinkney Lugenbeel was sent to establish a post in order to protect the miners from Indian attacks. During this time, the Boise Basin had been recently discovered as a place rich with gold. On his way to the Boise Basin region, he stopped in Walla Walla, Washington and admired the construction of the city’s first brick building constructed by Charles May, who would later help in the construction of the Fort Boise site. The sandstone used in the construction of some of the first buildings was quarried right out of the Table Rock area. The bricks that were used later in constructing some of the building were perfected by Charles May. In Walla Walla, he worked on figuring the perfect mixture to obtain bricks; he mixed the adobe by stomping on it with bare feet and placed in wooden mold to be fired in the sun. In 1879, Fort Boise became known as the Boise Barracks, and the atmosphere began to change throughout the area. The changing of the name brought light to a new center for Boise’s social life. There were balls, tennis, tea parties, dancing, and dinner parties that brought the City of Boise some excitement during this time. In 1912, the War Department reduced the amount of small military post, and lead Fort Boise to abandonment. Throughout the passing of seven years, very little activity occurred on the post, Governor D.W. Davis and Catherine Athey loaned the Barracks to U.S. Public Health Service. This would later allow for the treatment of World War I veterans in the coming years. After World War I, there began a realization that veterans needed care no matter what was wrong with them even if it wasn’t during war times. This lead to the passing of the Hospital Bill in 1922, which was the first time veterans could receive care for any disease or accident. Following this, the Public Health Service turned it over to the Veteran Bureau and continued to maintain a hospital on the grounds. In 1930, the Veterans Administration took it over and continues to operate the hospital to this day.

Building No. 1

This was the first building to be constructed, and is one of the few left that is made of sandstone. It served as an officer’s dwelling after its construction in 1863. It is believed that there used to be metal hangers that once held shutters in order to keep the Indians out. In the late 1970s the Fitzpatrick family peeled away 11 layers of wallpaper and 3 layers of paint during their remodel, which implies how much wear and tear these buildings have gone through. The 3 dormers and symmetry on the exterior give a federal revival feeling to the building. Currently, this building is used as the Regional Legal Counsel. For more information about Building 1, click here.

Building No.4

This building attempted to use both sandstone and brick in the construction. The front is a one-story sandstone portion, where as the back is a two story brick constructed portion with gabled roof ends. Above the verandah there is a small window to the attic, which is actually the only entrance into the attic. Outside of the house is a door to a small cellar that is believed to be used when hiding during Indian attacks. For more information about Building 4, click here.

Building No.6

This is a long one story building constructed of sandstone, and is believed to be the first insulated building in Idaho. The insulation consisted of a foot thick layer of rock and rubble held together by adobe clay which helped in regulating the temperature. This building as well has an inscription reading “September 1st 1864.” Because of the large population of deer in the area, many people were tempted to shot deer from the building windows, this lead to a sign being posted that read, “DO NOT SHOOT DEER FROM THE WINDOWS.” Currently, this building is the Eye Clinic for the hospital.

Building No.23 and 24

Both buildings were constructed in April of 1905. No.23 was originally used as quarters for two captains and No.24 as quarters for two lieutenants. They show a federal revival with Tuscan order, which refers to the plain unfluted columns. In addition they have porches with ivory painted porches. Many of the buildings were constructed, including these to use as much natural light as possible by influencing the direction light travels through the windows into other rooms. Many of the employees believe that No.24 is haunted by both two soldiers and a little girl. The soldiers may be seen standing at the top of the stairs from a certain angle of the down stairs. The most disturbing to many is a girl who is seen playing out in front with long brown hair, a pleated skirt, and knee socks. Currently, No.23 is the Mental Health, Drug, Alcohol, and Occupational Therapy center, and No.24 is being occupied by Human Resources.

Building No.29

In 1909, this building was constructed to be used as a gymnasium and a post exchange. The pedimental cap roof and the brick arch with a fan window above the door way add to the federal style of Charles Bulfinch. Currently, the library is residing in this building.

Building No.33

In June of 1908, the post built a U.S. Army Hospital for twelve beds. This building is the classic example of a federal revival style with Tuscan order throughout the porch. The basement was constructed out of local sandstone where as the rest of the building is brick. The back of the building used to consist of a sun porch and has four large brick chimneys. No.33 was recently bought back from the Boise School District and is beginning to be restored.

Building No.34

This building was originally used as a cavalry barn, but is currently used as a warehouse. Presently it still has hay from the earlier days of being a barn. Its windows and door ways all consist of shallow arches.

Building No.44

As first designed to house four officers, it is currently being used as pharmacy for their patients. It is of federal revival style with Tuscan.

Building No.45

Built in 1909, this building housed the post commanding officers. It expresses that of prairie style architecture with a low pitched roof and wide overhangs. The dormer and the large porch on the front help to bring balance to the house. Currently, this building is being occupied by a research and infectious disease center.

Building submitted by Ashley del Campo

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