reserve street armory in morning sun

Part of our neighborhood

This site is developed and maintained by East End residents interested in Boise’s Historic National Guard Armory; it’s a way for all stakeholders to share facts and developments regarding the Armory location, structure and future uses.

Like others, we approached this project out of curiosity about the Armory’s historic uses  and how it might be transformed from a liability into an asset. We wanted to explore outcomes that might benefit the surrounding neighborhoods and Boise in general. Currently, the structure sits vacant, although the new owners are planning a few projects to stabilize, protect and enhance the structure.

Share your thoughts about the Armory itself, the roughly 5 acres surrounding it, and the transition from public to private ownership in 2012. Potential uses may be constrained by the current owner interests, zoning and market considerations. Bottom line…the building needs a purpose and tenant(s)—the sooner the better.

It’s a cool spot.

Portland’s Armory Repurposed as Gerding Theater

Thanks to sharp-eyed preservationist  and planner John Bertram for sharing information on Portland’s own historic Armory, which he says enjoys wide support and visibility.

John was visiting Portland recently and says he…

“…discovered the Portland Armory behind Powell’s Books on Davis and 10th Ave. It was built in 1891 and placed on the NR [National Register] in 2000.  A developer purchased it in 1999 as part of the Brewery Blocks package and sold it to the Portland Dev. Corporation (urban renewal agency) in 2003.  Funds were raised along with New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) and  historic tax credits to restore the exterior and build a new structure within the interior.

Renamed the Gerding Theater at the Armory, it now houses Portland Center Stage (non profit), with two theaters, a café, offices, and support space. The Armory is open to the public, reimagined and renovated on four pillars: history, theater, sustainability, and community.”

See John’s photos below:

PA large theater Port Armory blt 1891 Port Armory entrance Port Armory lobby 1 Port Armory Lobby 2 Port Armory plaque

Armory gets partial landscaping upgrade

The Armory’s ‘front yard’ has a new look, with sod, new landscaping and a few trees. New windows were installed this summer. Neighbors are for the most part very grateful for the upgrades. Now the challenge is to turn this historic gem once again into a neighborhood and community asset.

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What Makes the Armory Unique?

geothermal signOver time many people have expressed interest in Boise’s Armory. We’ve heard so many suggestions for possible uses of this site and structure that it’s tough to pick a favorite. Whether someone sees a multiple-use structure featuring retail, restaurant, commercial and residential, or a public asset like a YMCA, everyone agrees on three main aspects that make the Armory attractive:

Location. The site occupies a hub among multiple neighborhoods, and sits at the base of the Military Reserve Trail system, a gateway to an extensive trail system. This is attractive to food and beverage retailers interested in capturing local residents and recreationists, and those involved in business related to biking, hiking, running or pets.

Geothermal. This is probably the most unique aspect of the building and the one everyone sees as a huge selling point. The Armory is first in line for hot water from the City of Boise’s geothermal wells across the street. The current service to the building needs to be updated with newer insulated pipe technology, but provides enough volume to provide heat for something like the historic Natatorium on Warm Springs. Not only does the geothermal resource translate into a perpetual 30% savings on energy use for a tenant, it represent a green energy source and the ability to dramatically reduce the building’s carbon footprint. One interested party commented that ‘where else could you find this?’

Learn more at

WPA plaque from 1937_1024History. The Armory is a Works Project Administration (WPA) project built as America was working our way out of the Great Depression. Add to that its legacy as the home of the Idaho National Guard, the potential to connect to Guard history, and the Art Deco design of Tourtelotte and Hummel Architects. Those familiar with architectural history and preservation find the building’s classic, efficient design a big selling point.

Work Begins on Verizon Cell Tower

We reported on the initial application from Verizon to construct a cell tower between the Armory and the Fire station to the west. The original application called for an 80′ tower and at the time we were told that a stealth tower (disguised as a tree or giant lumberjack) wouldn’t be allowed. Thanks to the folks at the State Historic Preservation Office and the City of Boise , all that has changed.

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Work has started on the foundation and infrastructure for the tower under a “conditional use permit for a wireless communication facility that includes a “65-foot tall monopole designed to resemble a tree.” Zoning for the Armory is a C-2/DA (General Commercial with a Development Agreement) zone. A variance to reduce the side yard setback is included” to reduce the impact on the Armory property.


Excavation to the east of the Reserve Street Fire Station to route utilities to cell tower site.

See attachments for plan views and representations.

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2015 Spring Work Begins on Armory

Lots of folks are curious about the status of the Armory. After months of inactivity, work began on a few general improvements about a month ago. I spoke with Mike with J&M earlier this year and he gave me a rundown on the goals of the current push:

  • Daylighting basement windows. The roughly 7,000 sq. ft. below-grade spaces facing Reserve Street will be getting slightly larger glazed openings.
  • Enlarging window wells. The old window wells were pretty small, so workers have excavated a large trench that will slope up toward ground level to create a berm that allows more light to reach the windows.
  • Retaining wall. The top of the berm will feature an 18″ retaining wall with deep footings. This will keep water and other unwanted things out of the window wells.
  • Drainage system. This will add to the protection of the below-grade space from potential flood events.
  • Seismic reinforcement. Due to the age of the structure, additional work will helped stabilize walls in the event of any seismic activity.

I got a tour from Gene, one of the workers on site. He mentioned how much everyone enjoys working in the space, surrounded by history and the amazing natural light. Here are a few photos showing the interior spaces and a few exterior details. Thanks to Mike and Gene for helping answer some questions; neighbors are understandably curious.

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2nd Floor NE space showing morning sunlight. This level, like the Main Floor and day-lit basement contains about 7,000 sq. ft.

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NE corner showing excavation for light well (against building) and retaining wall (trench at right adjacent to pavement). Forms are no in place and concrete should be poured in coming weeks.

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14,400 sq. ft. Drill Hall, roughly 80′ X 180′ of unobstructed space, showing the original bowstring trusses supporting the arched middle roof. The lower left wall shows openings into the rear section of the building, that originally housed the National Guard stables and horses.

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East wall looking toward the rear of the building. The front section contains approximately 21,000 sq. ft. on three levels, the middle section with 14,400 sq. ft., and the rear single-level section with approximately 5,000 sq. ft.


Interior panorama of rear single-level space, originally housing the stables for the Idaho National Guard.


Original bowstring trusses (above) and detail of the roof framing and structure, which includes repurposed dimensional-lumber concrete board forms used in the 1937 construction. The second floor wings were added in the 50s, when workers had access to plywood for forms. This is why the texture and original colors were different from early ours to later pours.


Roof detail showing repurposed 1937 concrete board forms. This was the depression, so nothing was wasted.


NE Corner showing board forms and concrete prep. Owner characterized finished retaining walls as “Eighteen inches above grade.”


View SE from west corner of Armory showing footings for retaining wall.


View west from NE corner showing forms for retaining wall.