Boise High's Auditorium Threatened
Only weeks after completing the demolitions of Cole and Franklin elementary schools, the Boise School District (BSD) will decide the fate of yet another Boise landmark. In the latest of a series of seismic stabilization efforts at sites across the city, the BSD will soon decide how best to retrofit the historic auditorium at Boise High School.
Plans have already been drawn to wrap three exterior elevations of the landmark auditorium in both vertically and horizontally oriented steel beams—from the roof to the ground. This concept, though not yet funded by the board of trustees, would most certainly damage the architectural integrity of this National Register-listed building.
Boise High School was designed by the renowned Idaho firm of Tourtelotte and Hummel—architects of the Idaho Statehouse—and was completed in phases over the course of twelve years. The east wing was constructed in 1908-1909, the west wing in 1912 and in 1920, the central portion finished the building. After narrowly escaping closure in the mid-1990s—due to the dedication of the public and organizations such as Preservation Idaho—Boise High served as a national model for the continued vitality of historic, downtown schools.
The Historic Cole & Franklin Schools Have Been Demolished!
In March of 2006, voters approved a 94 million dollar bond proposed by the Boise School District. This funding, which will allow construction work on facilities at thirteen separate sites around Idaho’s capital city, was requested by the school board to alleviate budget shortfalls and accommodate additional needs.
Typical of most bond requests, this particular appeal was controversial. Questions were raised by many including Preservation Idaho who joined with their colleagues across the city, at Ada County, and at the statewide level in requesting that proper deference be given to Boise’s inventory of historic school buildings. Even the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have previously lauded the Boise School District for their work at Boise High School and the Bown House, urged caution in too quickly dismissing the value of Idaho’s largest collection of historically significant educational facilities.
In the summer of 2008, the implementation of the bond resulted in the demolition of historic South Junior High for which the Boise School district earned Preservation Idaho’s 2009 Onion Award. Whitney Elementary, listed in the National Register of Historic Places has also been demolished.
On August 10, 2009, the Boise School District board voted unanimously to demolish both Cole and Franklin elementary. Despite the opposition of Preservation Idaho and the National Trust, and the district’s original assurance that both properties would be sold with their buildings intact, the board and staff of the district now claim that the demolition of the buildings will increase the value of the properties. Both listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the school buildings have been salvaged and leveled. See photos of the schools before and during demolition.
Preservation Idaho and our allies questioned the necessity of these demolitions without further public input and more detailed justifications. At the current cost estimates (approximately $3,000.00 per month) provided by the school district to “maintain” the sites with the buildings intact, it would take over eight and a half (8.5) years for the district and its tax payers to recuperate the expected $306,000.00 that the demolitions will cost. Surely these sites could have been sold with the buildings intact in less than eight years.
What Can You Do?
- Become a member of Preservation Idaho. Your member dollars help us fund preservation efforts like these.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local news publications expressing your concern about the fate of our historic schools.
- Contact the Boise School District trustees.
4621 Hillcrest View
Boise, ID 83705
191 Twin Willow
Boise, ID 83706
3734 Stone Creek
Boise, ID 83703
4477 N Torridon Way
Boise, ID 83702
2030 N 23rd St
Boise, ID 83702
603 Colfax St
Boise, ID 83709
Dr. Phil Kelly
2504 E Bergeson
Boise, ID 83706
Find Out More
- Learn more about the history and architecture of Cole and Franklin and other threatened school buildings around Boise.
- Historic Cole, Franklin schools in Boise to be torn down, 08/11/09, Idaho Statesman
- Cole, Franklin elementaries' demolition may start soon, 08/12/09, Idaho Statesman
- Getting Over It: Boise Begins to See Past School Demolition, 06/27/11, Sheri Freemuth, National Trust for Historic Preservation