‘Awestruck’: Idaho State Archives now hold original Capitol building drawings

Hummel Architects donates more than 100 original drawings, paintings of Statehouse to state historical society

By: - February 28, 2023 5:51 pm
Idaho Gov. Brad Little at the Capitol in Boise

During a Feb. 28, 2023, press conference at the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at the Statehouse, Gov. Brad Little thanked Hummel Architects for donating its original Idaho Capitol drawings and paintings to the Idaho State Archives, a division of the Idaho State Historical Society. (Christina Lords/Idaho Capital Sun)

The details are precise.

In neat black ink, Tourtellotte & Hummel architects stipulated 12 outlets, at 60 watts each, would line the uppermost circle of the Idaho Capitol’s dome. In the ring below that? Twenty-eight outlets at 100 watts each. 

The pedestal directly below the shining golden eagle atop the Capitol would be exactly 1 foot, 10 and a half inches tall.

Every detail – down to the molding, plumbing, door types and electrical infrastructure – is outlined in a series of about 125 architectural drawings that have been held in a Boise office vault for more than 100 years. Until now.

During a Tuesday press conference at the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at the Statehouse, Hummel Architects announced it has donated its original Capitol drawings and paintings to the Idaho State Archives, a division of the Idaho State Historical Society.

Scott Straubhar, principal of Hummel Architects, said the architectural firm decided to donate the works to the state so the public could have access to them in perpetuity.

“We believe in unity, we’re all architects, and we all collectively came together and made this decision,” Straubhar said.

What Idaho Capitol materials are in the Hummel Architects donation?

The donated materials include the original, hand-drawn Idaho State Capitol architectural and structural plans from 1911, project files for different aspects of the building – such as its woodwork and other construction materials – and outlines that match the layout of the House and Senate chambers as they stand today.

Hummel Architects drawings of Idaho Capitol Building
Boise-based Hummel Architects has donated more than 100 original drawings and paintings of the of Idaho Capitol, including this outline of the House and Senate chambers, to the Idaho State Historical Society. The Idaho Supreme Court, outlined at the top of the drawing, originally had a home within the Capitol. That room is now used for the Idaho Legislature’s meeting place for its powerful budget-setting committee, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)

Straubhar said the architectural firm takes great pride in its role in designing buildings throughout the state that have stood the test of time. J.E. Tourtellotte & Co. — later known as Tourtellotte & Hummel, and today known as Hummel Architects — has shaped Idaho since 1896, according to information provided by the Idaho State Historical Society. 

On March 3, 1905, the Idaho Legislature approved House Bill No. 138 to create the Idaho Capitol Building Commission, which consisted of the governor, the secretary of state, the state treasurer, and two “competent citizens,” according to the historical society.

The commission then issued a “Notice to Architects” to solicit designs for the state’s new capitol building.

“J.E. Tourtellotte & Company’s bid was one of 15 submitted, and after careful review and consideration, the Commission offered the project to Tourtellotte on June 27, 1905,” according to the Historical Society materials. “J.E. Tourtellotte & Company accepted the offer of $10,000 for elevation and floor plans for the complete building and ‘all necessary sketches, working drawings, scale drawings, full details, and specifications for the central portion of the building’ on July 11, 1905.”

Donated materials join other important Idaho documents in State Archives

Janet Gallimore, executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society, said the donation will become an integral part of the State Archives’ permanent government records collection. That collection includes important and invaluable documents such as the original Idaho Constitution; the appointment of Idaho’s first territorial governor, William Wallace, signed by President Abraham Lincoln; hand-colored maps by Idaho’s first surveyor general, Lafayette Cartee; and critical water rights records from the Snake River Basin Adjudication process. 

Hummel Architects collection donated to the Idaho State Archives
The Hummel Architects collection donated to the Idaho State Archives includes original 1911 hand-drawn Idaho State Capitol architectural/structural plans; project files for woodwork, plumbing, and electrical; and a series of drawings that depict the finished capitol, down to the molding, trim, door types, and finish work, according to the Idaho State Historical Society. (Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society)

“The Territorial Legislature established the Idaho State Historical Society in 1881 to do exactly what we’re doing today, and that is to chronicle and collect the history of our state so that it’s accessible and preserved for future generations,” she said. “That’s for education, for research, for programming, for exhibition.”

Gallimore said the materials should be available for public research in about a month. 

“This action today is very important because what it means is that, in perpetuity, these materials — the iconography, the iconic graphic materials — of this Capitol will be preserved in an amazing facility that is environmentally controlled,” she said. “We have a great team and staff that organizes and cares for these things and provides access, and they will be there for the public for the future.”

Idaho Gov. Brad Little thanked the architecture firm for the donation at the Tuesday press conference and said the spirit of the building can be felt each time Idahoans gather at the Capitol.

“I have people coming here all the time, from all over the world and all over the nation, that are just awestruck by what we did,” he said. “It’s such an iconic site and iconic building, and the love we all have for this building (is immense.)”

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Christina Lords
Christina Lords

Christina Lords is the editor-in-chief of the Idaho Capital Sun and has been a professional journalist covering local and state government since graduating from the University of Idaho in 2009. A Pocatello native, Lords is a fifth-generation Idahoan who served as a reporter at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and the Post Register in Idaho Falls and served as assistant editor for the Idaho Press in Nampa. She also led the Idaho Statesman in Boise for two years before turning to nonprofit journalism.