The Idanha Hotel has played various roles in the history of the city of Boise, from a grand hotel to post modern apartments; it has done and seen almost everything Boise has to offer. This essay is a short outline of the history and role that the Idanha Hotel and the city of Boise. Fueled by westward expansion Boise was a booming town in need of a “big time” hotel for all of the states most important people and any of those important enough to pass through. This was in large part due to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the movement toward “manifest destiny,” which was pushed forward by historian Frederick Jackson Turner. First mentioned in late November by “The Statesman,” the grand hotel was said to be built 5 stories high and that the primary architect was to be W.S. (Walter) Campbell. Little information was given beyond this and immediate curiosity had struck the small city of Boise, Idaho. Nearly a year and $125,000 later, the Idanha Hotel was complete and ready to open in January of 1901. The Idanha shortly housed many who visited the “Trial of the Century” involving Big Bill Haywood in 1907. From this hotel, Governor Borah gave his vindication speech. It was also here that Harry Orchard rigged a bomb to kill Governor Steunenberg (which was called off due to his fear of hurting his confidant). He later succeeded in Caldwell a few years later.
The French-chateau style hotel featured somewhat unheard of architecture for the city of Boise and was indeed a landmark building.At five stories high, The Idanha was originally the tallest building in the state of Idaho. It also held the state’s very first elevator. This was a major attraction in its own, bringing forth many of the “rich” customers, and later youth who wanted just to go for a ride. Only three rooms in the whole entire building are not facing the outside. This means that they are completely indoors and without any windows.
The Idanha also features one of the most impressive views from outside of all downtown Boise. Built with near gothic like pillars, it extends past its six floors (the plans for the amount of stories were later changed) on all four corners. The building features significantly more effort on the sides facing the streets of West Main and 10th Street than on the backside of the building, which has relatively flat surfaces and little to no formal design. It is quite obvious this corner of the building was never meant to be featured. The inside of the hotel features a large lobby for its time and was used quite frequently for big events in its early days. The hotel was used quite often for balls and inaugurations at its start and was visited by bigger names than almost any other establishment in the state of Idaho. At what were relatively inexpensive prices of $2-4 dollars (keep in mind this was the early 1900s), the hotel brought many local honeymooners as well as some of the most prominent figures in all of American History. In the few years after its opening, the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and (maybe lesser known) Benjamin Harrison all passed through its doors on their visits to the city of Boise. Idaho?s elite political leaders of the time held banquets there on more than one occasion it the buildings early years.
Indeed, one could say the Idanha was once the center of Boise’s elite and sophisticated social gatherings. Today, the Idanha doesn’t hold quite the same mystique that it did in the past. Now, the upstairs rooms serve as victorian style apartments with relatively little remodeling done since its opening in 1901 (modern carpet, painting, and fixtures are still present in most parts of the building). The lower quarters of the building feature a few local shops and business and the popular 10th Street Station bar. The 10th Station is quite popular, but it does not hold the same type of customers that the Idanha did in the past. Although the apartments are nice, this is definitely not home to some of the more premium apartments in Boise either. Essentially, the Idanha building has taken a fairly large step down in terms of the social class in which it caters to. It is still nice, but would by no means be considered eloquent or fit for the current President of the United States. The Idanha Hotel, like many century old buildings, has its fair share of ghost stories. In the years during reconstruction to make the hotels apartments, numerous different phenomena are said to have taken place. There is an apparent ghost bell boy who was shot in the 1970?s who operates the elevator all on his own, particularly moving it to the 4th floor (where he was shot). When we stopped by, this is exactly where the elevator had stopped (we took the stairs initially not trusting the hundred year old elevator). In the early 1920s there is speculation that a man killed his wife on the second floor with nothing but a pair of scissors. She is said to roam the halls not letting people sleep at night. This particular rumor holds significantly less water than the previously mentioned story and is spoken of much less frequently. One could definitely say that the Idanha Hotel building is arguably the most prominent piece of architecture in Boise and even all of Idaho’s history. With a brand new mural painted on the backside in remembrance of what it used to be, it provides remembrance to the past, as well as acceptance of the current role it holds in the city of Boise. The Idanha hotel is a must see for any interested historian in the city of Boise.