Idaho Falls

Post war Idaho Falls was a boom town. Spurred by the establishment of the national nuclear reactor testing facility in the desert to the west, the county seat of Bonneville County saw an unprecedented explosion in population. New residents of the city needed new homes, and new cars to access them. In response, the Smith-Hart Chevrolet-Cadillac dealership – which had been established in 1919 – built a new showroom in approximately 1950.

Constructed with a terra cotta exterior and featuring elements of the Art Deco style, the building contained an elevator to move vehicles from the first floor to the basement and housed several suites of offices on the second floor. When the car dealership moved and sold the building in 1963, subsequent alterations compromised the original design by partially enclosing the showroom windows on the ground floor.

In 2011, under the ownership of Thomas Development Company, the building was rehabilitated to house the headquarters of Idahoan Foods. Community Development Block Grant funds were used and necessitated adherence to the Secretary’s Standards as administered by the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office and the Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission. Historic elements of the building were retained and in some instances repurposed while the original ground floor showroom window openings were restore with appropriate new windows. This modern reinterpretation of a historic building proves the worth of public process and private investment in the protection of Idaho’s history and is certainly deserving of an Orchid Award for Contribution to Historic Preservation.