In 1900, Boise was a booming town and found itself in need of lodging for state notables and other important people who may be passing through. The remedy came in the form of a new grand hotel built in downtown Boise—The Idanha Hotel. Decked out in French-chateau style and high end amenities, it was designed by William S. Campbell at a cost of $125,000. At that time, it was Idaho’s tallest building and the first with an elevator. Opening with a splash on New Year’s Day 1901, it quickly became THE place to stay while visiting Boise.
It was a sophisticated social center for banquets and balls held by Boise’s elite. From this hotel, Senator William Borah gave his vindication speech following his acquittal in a land fraud prosecution case. Also, it was here that the first attempt was made (unsuccessfully) to kill Governor Frank Steunenberg. At a cost of $2-$4 per night, it attracted local honeymooners and such prominent figures as Chinese pioneer Polly Bemis, President Theodore Roosevelt, President William Howard Taft, and politician William Jennings Bryant. In 1907, it hosted lawyer Clarence Darrow and many of the other players involved in the “Trial of the Century” against union leader Big Bill Haywood for the murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg. And, when jazz pianist Gene Harris semi-retired to Boise in the mid-1970s, he performed there regularly.
Over the years, some interesting “unverified” stories regarding the hotel have emerged. It was rumored that Roger Miller wrote “King of the Road” while staying at the Idanha Hotel in the 1960s. Also, it is believed that during the prohibition of the 1920s proprietors of the Idanha Hotel saw a much more profitable use for what had formerly been a hidden card room. Guests and employees have reported strange happenings in the hotel, such as the elevator moving, doors opening and closing, and lights being turned off or on—all by themselves. Some claim to have been touched by an entity in the basement or pulled from their beds by a misty gray apparition that appears throughout the building. And, when the hotel was being renovated into apartments in the early 1970s, many of the construction workers quit, citing the occurrence of paranormal activity.
The Idanha Hotel, located at 928 W Main Street, is a quaint nod to Boise’s history. The upstairs rooms serve as Victorian style apartments, and the lower levels feature local businesses and the popular 10th Street Station Bar. Though no longer the sophisticated social center of the past, it is still a prominent piece of Boise architecture and a grand remembrance of its history.