Building Boise: A Tour of "New Deal" Architecture in Idaho's Capital City
In 1932, at the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt pledged himself to “a new deal for the American people.” As President, he introduced multiple new programs and agencies to relieve the unemployed, reform financial institutions, and promote the recovery of the economy. Federal programs including the Public Works Administration (PWA), Works Progress/Projects Administration (WPA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and later the Federal Works Agency (FWA) put the nation to work building needed infrastructure and improvements. The architectural results of these programs, often overlooked, stand today as a symbol of this amazing chapter in our collective history.
An Uncertain Future…
In 2001 and again in 2009, the Ada County Courthouse was threatened with demolition by its current owners. As arguably the most important “New Deal” building in Boise, those battles illustrate that none of these sites are safe from threat. The fate of the Armory is uncertain as is that of Cole and Franklin Elementary Schools. Whitney Elementary will almost definitely be demolished. Certainly the less well-known projects, such as sidewalks and other infrastructure, are even less likely to be actively preserved.
Biking/Driving Tour or Web Tour
This tour is offered in two formats.
- Download the brochure (PDF, 2.6MB) with a map and bike/drive to 8 of Boise's New Deal architectural projects.
- Or, view all the projects in the brochure and a few extra here online!
This project would not be possible without the contributions of the Boise City Department of Arts of History, Givens Pursley LLP, the Idaho State Historical Society, and the Idaho Transportation Department.
Click here for a complete list of individuals and organizations that Preservation Idaho would like to thank for their support, advice, and interest in making this project successful.
“New Deal” programs were responsible for the construction of countless buildings around the State of Idaho. From Forest Service administrative sites to post offices, dams, county courthouses, and toilets, these Depression-era projects have left an indelible stamp on the state’s built environment. While the present brochure focuses on structures in Boise, it would be unfair to limit the scope of the website to the capital city alone.
Please help Preservation Idaho bring attention to “New Deal” architecture around the state. If you know of a building that deserves recognition in your city, county, or region, provide us with a short history (500 words or less) and current or historic images. After review, we will add them to our website. These can all be sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.