Architectural Beauty: Comparing Boise to the Other Artsy Hotspots in the U.S.


While Boise was officially incorporated by the government in 1864, it is still a relatively young metropolis, however it has developed rapidly over the years in various aspects including the city’s architecture. Many impressive buildings are now focal points of the city’s skyline which rival iconic buildings in other more popular hotspots across the country.

We featured some of these structures in our article ‘Walkabout Boise’ feature such as the Idaho Capitol Building which was based on The Capitol in D.C. as the custom at the time. Designed by renowned architects John Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel, what’s not as commonly known is that the building was also inspired by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London as well as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

But the Idaho Capitol Building is just one of Boise’s artsy wonders, and today the spotlight is on other equally amazing structural works.

Boise Idaho Temple

Also known as Boise Mormon Temple, this building near Interstate 84 is near impossible to miss. It has six spires which makes it reminiscent of the Gothic style, akin to the Chicago LDS Church Temple as well as the Dallas Temple. Its architects followed the same style of having the spires detached from the main structure which adds to its distinct appearance.

The Boise Idaho Temple is great for visiting in spring as the temple grounds are filled with flowering plants. Seeing them in full bloom makes for a more surreal experience.

Old Idaho Penitentiary

If you have a penchant for the bizarre and antique, then Old Idaho Penitentiary is the perfect place to visit. As we’ve mentioned in another Greenbelt Magazine article, it’s one of only four US territorial prisons that are accessible to the public.

It was built in the Romanesque style, and emanates old-world vibes. The complex formerly housed some of Idaho’s most notorious criminals, so there are all kinds of intriguing stories associated with the Old Pen.

Freak Alley Gallery and Boise’s Art Deco Collection

Although not a single architectural structure – more a collection of many – Freak Alley Gallery is heavily linked to Boise’s art culture. We showed in the piece ‘Freak Out in Boise’s Freak Alley Gallery’ how the place is a large canvass for mural and graffiti artists each year.

You can easily imagine it as the Western counterpart of the famed Wynwood Walls in Miami – a city that’s renowned for its artsy skyline and not to mention districts. The most prominent, of course, are its famous Art Deco buildings in South Beach including Marlin Hotel that is situated in the center of SoBe’s Art Deco district and Colony Hotel which is among the oldest establishments in the area. Similarly, Boise is also lined with stylish Art Deco buildings especially in the downtown area due to the Art Deco movement that swept the country in the 1920s. Idaho Architecture Project featured some of the most iconic including Hitchcock Building, Old Ada County Courthouse and even St. Luke’s Hospital, all of which stand out in the urban landscape due to their vintage appearance.

All of these places showcase the diversity of Boise in terms of art and architecture. To discover more wonderful places to visit in Boise, browse through our Districts section.