In 1910, at 1402 W Grove Street in downtown Boise, the Linen Building was constructed for the American Linen Supply Co. This commercial steam laundry company was the only laundry facility in the country utilizing natural hot water. They employed hundreds of laundresses, but working conditions were poor with toxic chemicals, hot steamy air, long hours, and low pay.
The American Linen Supply Co. operated their business in the building for decades. But, after World War II, household washing machines became more and more common in middle class homes, and the need for commercial laundries dwindled. The Linen Building was eventually abandoned, and environmental concerns regarding the chemicals used and stored in and around the structure caused developers to steer clear of the site. In 2001, the underground storage tanks and surrounding contaminated soils were removed. A remediation system continued to treat the soils until 2004 when it was deemed that the building was not the source of contamination and treatment was no longer needed.
In 2005, Portland developer, David Hale, purchased and renovated the property as part of his plan to redevelop and rejuvenate the Linen District—the area of town from 13th Street to 16thStreet between Main Street and Front Street. Today, The Linen Building is the focal point of the Linen District. It is currently used as an event center and has a second story loft that is home to an art gallery called The Gallery at the Linen Building. The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence is the current tenant of the building and moved in with the intention of maintaining a community space for organizing, celebrating, healing, and learning. They provide the event space for a reduced cost to organizations such as Women’s & Children’s Alliance, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Conservation Voters of Idaho. As they state on their website, “Each time you rent the Linen Building, you are joining and supporting a community working towards a world rooted in love, equity, connection, resilience, and joy.”