Idaho State Capitol Shines With the Pioneering Spirit

In this installment of ‘Larger Than Life: Architecture Through the Ages,’ this state capitol glows with beautiful marble and mahogany.
Idaho State Capitol Shines With the Pioneering Spirit
A 5-foot-7-inch-tall gilded eagle statue perches atop the central dome of the the Idaho Capitol. Just peeking over the roofline of the structure are two glass atrium domes to flank the foundational centerpoint dome. The Capitol’s entryway conveys grandeur due to its four towering classical columns and large ornamented pediment. (DroneDreams/Shutterstock)
12/6/2023
Updated:
12/10/2023
0:00

Touted as the “builders of Idaho,” the late 19th-century Boise-based architectural firm Tourtellotte and Hummel accepted a bid to design the Idaho Capitol in a Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical style on July 11, 1905. The central structure was completed in 1912, wings were added in 1919, and by 1920, the Idaho Capitol comprised 150,000 square feet.

Notable materials used for the exterior and interior include distinct and various hued stone: Montana granite, Idaho sandstone, red Georgia marble, gray Alaska marble, green Vermont marble, and black Italian marble. The interior wood throughout is Honduran mahogany. And like many grand structures, its construction required hundreds of tons of steel. The Boise Foothills, which span parts of both the Boise and Sawtooth national forests, provide the natural and stunning backdrop to the state Capitol structure. Made of sandstone taken from nearby Table Rock, each sandstone block weighs 10 tons. From the first floor to the eagle atop the dome, the building rises 208 feet.

The project to restore the Idaho Capitol ran from 2007 to 2010. Today, the building displays permanent and rotating exhibits, curated and preserved by the Idaho State Historical Society in partnership with the Idaho Capitol Commission.

More than 50,000 square feet of marble exists in the Idaho Capitol. In the central part of the rotunda, with its balconies, one can experience not only the beauty of marble but also the 60-foot-high columns that support the dome and surround the gray, black, and red compass rose medallion on the basement garden floor below. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
More than 50,000 square feet of marble exists in the Idaho Capitol. In the central part of the rotunda, with its balconies, one can experience not only the beauty of marble but also the 60-foot-high columns that support the dome and surround the gray, black, and red compass rose medallion on the basement garden floor below. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
On one of the rotunda’s four floors are massive columns adorned with a scagliola treatment, meaning a gypsum, pigment, and adhesive compound applied at an extremely thin thickness over local brickwork columns. Layers of classic acanthus leaf moldings ornately embellish the tops of Greek Corinthian-style columns. The lighted balcony space is replete with other decorative moldings, including dentil molding, a design style originating in ancient Greek and Roman architecture. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
On one of the rotunda’s four floors are massive columns adorned with a scagliola treatment, meaning a gypsum, pigment, and adhesive compound applied at an extremely thin thickness over local brickwork columns. Layers of classic acanthus leaf moldings ornately embellish the tops of Greek Corinthian-style columns. The lighted balcony space is replete with other decorative moldings, including dentil molding, a design style originating in ancient Greek and Roman architecture. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
On the west side of the entrance to Statuary Hall on the rotunda’s fourth floor is displayed the sculpture “George Washington Equestrian.” Austrian immigrant Charles Ostner (1828–1913) carved the statue from a single pine tree. After four years’ work, he presented it to the leadership of the Idaho territory in 1869 and was subsequently paid $2,500. Until 1934, the statue stood on the capitol grounds. It was then moved indoors, refurbished, and covered in gold leaf. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)
On the west side of the entrance to Statuary Hall on the rotunda’s fourth floor is displayed the sculpture “George Washington Equestrian.” Austrian immigrant Charles Ostner (1828–1913) carved the statue from a single pine tree. After four years’ work, he presented it to the leadership of the Idaho territory in 1869 and was subsequently paid $2,500. Until 1934, the statue stood on the capitol grounds. It was then moved indoors, refurbished, and covered in gold leaf. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)
While all types of marble are plenteous throughout the structure, the effect of dramatic columns set against marble flooring provides a grand and sweeping presence in the entryway and on additional floors. The stairs are set off with polished brass handrails and lighting fixtures as well as hand-carved dentil moldings against wide crown moldings. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
While all types of marble are plenteous throughout the structure, the effect of dramatic columns set against marble flooring provides a grand and sweeping presence in the entryway and on additional floors. The stairs are set off with polished brass handrails and lighting fixtures as well as hand-carved dentil moldings against wide crown moldings. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
Since 1919, the governor’s ceremonial desk has been used by each of Idaho’s highest executive officers and has remained a fixture in the governor’s ceremonial office. The partner desk style, designed for two people (office holder and colleague) to use at the same time, was inspired by 18th-century British library tables. It is made of Spanish mahogany, fitted with brass pulls and feet, and adorned with classic hand-carved leaf designs. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)
Since 1919, the governor’s ceremonial desk has been used by each of Idaho’s highest executive officers and has remained a fixture in the governor’s ceremonial office. The partner desk style, designed for two people (office holder and colleague) to use at the same time, was inspired by 18th-century British library tables. It is made of Spanish mahogany, fitted with brass pulls and feet, and adorned with classic hand-carved leaf designs. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)
Corinthian-style columns, in a scagliola treatment to resemble marble, convey strength and beauty in the House and Senate chambers. The drama is also expressed in etched-glass skylights that provide enough natural light so that artificial light isn't necessarily needed. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
Corinthian-style columns, in a scagliola treatment to resemble marble, convey strength and beauty in the House and Senate chambers. The drama is also expressed in etched-glass skylights that provide enough natural light so that artificial light isn't necessarily needed. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)
Installed in 2022, the "Spirit of Idaho Women" commemorative sculpture (L) represents Idaho granting the right of women to vote 24 years before women in the United States were granted that same right under the 19th Amendment. Southeast from the capitol's front steps, the 7-foot-tall bronze statue by Idaho sculptor Irene Deely was commissioned by the Idaho State Historical Society. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)
Installed in 2022, the "Spirit of Idaho Women" commemorative sculpture (L) represents Idaho granting the right of women to vote 24 years before women in the United States were granted that same right under the 19th Amendment. Southeast from the capitol's front steps, the 7-foot-tall bronze statue by Idaho sculptor Irene Deely was commissioned by the Idaho State Historical Society. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)
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