Assay Office, Boise Idaho
Posted by: joestanfill
N 43° 36.760 W 116° 11.801
11T E 564823 N 4829166
Quick Description: This is an incredible piece of history and an amazing looking building in the Boise area. I had driven by this for many years, before stopping to find out it's significance to the area and it's development.
Location: Idaho, United States
Date Posted: 1/13/2010 10:24:49 AM
Waymark Code: WM827T
Assay Office is a historic building in Boise, Idaho. It is significant for its role in the history of mining in Idaho. During the first half of the 1860s, Idaho’s gold production was the third highest in the nation. Due to the difficulty of transporting bulky, heavy ores the long distance to the nearest U.S. Mint in San Francisco, there was great demand for an assaying office in Idaho. Gold and other precious metals are not mined in a pure form. In order to place a value on an ore, the precious metal must be separated from the impurities. This is what an assay office does.
The discovery of gold on the Clearwater River in 1860 brought a rush of miners to what is now the state of Idaho. Within two years, prospectors identified new discoveries in the Boise Basin and along the Salmon River. Between 1861 and 1866 the territory's gold output totaled about $52 million -- or about 19 percent of the total discovery for the United States.
Because it was costly to ship gold to the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, a strong demand arose for either a federal mint or an assay office in Idaho. In 1869 Congress appropriated $75,000 to erect a building for a U.S. Assay Office in Boise.
Alexander Rossi, a Boise rancher, donated a dry plat of desert sagebrush for a building site. Now one of the most historic and important buildings in Idaho, the gray stone structure still stands on its own green block between Second and Third streets on Main, surrounded by noble trees and by a fence almost as old as the building.With its solitary building this is the only undeveloped block remaining in the original 1863 Boise City townsite.
Construction on the building began in July of 1870 and required about a year to complete. Its exterior native sandstone walls are more than two feet thick. The architectural style has been difficult to classify, being described variously as "Italian Villa," "French Chateau," and "Provincial."
Assay equipment was slow to arrive, and by the time the office began to function in February of 1872, many rich surface placers of gold in Idaho had almost been depleted. New discoveries and productive mining lodes and lead silver mines along the Wood River brought vast new values to the state's mineral wealth, however, and by 1895 the annual deposits to the assay office reached more than a million dollars. By 1917 the Idaho mines had yielded some $400 million in gold, silver and lead.
The Assay Office continued operating until 1933, when the U.S. Forest Service acquired the building as headquarters for the Boise National Forest and remodeled the structure.
Originally the offices and assayer's laboratory were on the first floor, and the second floor contained the living quarters of the chief assayer. Despite slight alterations to the exterior and major interior changes during the remodeling of 1933, the basic structure and general appearance are essentially the same as those of the original building.
On May 8, 1965, the Assay Office was dedicated as a registered National Historic Landmark. In 1972 ownership was transferred to the Idaho State Historical Society.
The building is currently being used as office space for the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Archaeological Survey of Idaho. Link
210 Main Street
Boise, ID USA
County / Borough / Parish: Ada
Year listed: 1966
Historic (Areas of) Significance: Architecture, Politics/Government, Exploration/Settlement, Commerce
Periods of significance: 1900-1924, 1925-1949
Historic function: Government
Current function: The building is currently being used as office space for the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Archaeological Survey of Idaho.
Privately owned?: no
Primary Web Site: [Web Link]
Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]
Season start / Season finish: Not listed
Hours of operation: Not listed
Secondary Website 2: Not listed
National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.