On 4/25/12, members of the EENA Armory Subcommittee met with Preservation Idaho’s Dan Everhart and Sheri Freemuth of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We discussed the latest developments in efforts to preserve and repurpose the historic structure. The City of Boise is currently working with a developer interested in helping stabilize and make improvements, which could allow the 40,000 square foot building and approximately 5 acres to be turned over to a foundation or nonprofit that would assume responsibility for leasing and repurposing the building.
One question put before the Armory Subcommittee involves exterior treatment of the concrete. Our meeting on the 25th brought together historic preservation experts and our resident architect Steve Trout to contemplate recent proposals from the developer. To date, there is overwhelming support from neighbors, historians, architects and community members to preserve the exterior surfaces to the extent possible and practical.
The narrative of the Armory’s construction is in this tactile concrete skin. The board form impressions and pour lines are like tree rings…they tell the story of many strong hands and backs hauling concrete hour by hour, day after day to create the building’s structural shell. As a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, it also represents national and local strategies to work our way out of the Great Depression.
Some complain that the separate pour of the upper front wings doesn’t match the original 1937 work, and they’re right. In the 50s contractors had access to plywood forms and more modern concrete mix.
Thanks to Meg Sullivan for a sample of a similar vintage concrete structure repurposed in L.A. as an architectural anchor for the Helms Bakery District.
The Armory Subcommittee is currently drafting a response to the developer’s request for information and we hope to have that delivered the first week of May. Look for more updates in mid May of this year. Thanks for your interest in this great site and structure, and stay tuned.