Though you may have never heard his name before, James B. Funsten impacted Boise in ways still visible today. He was born in Virginia on July 23, 1856 and was the eldest son of a colonel. He grew up to become a lawyer but later left his law practice to become a clergyman. In 1898, he was assigned as the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho and landed himself in Boise. Four years later, on a spring day in May of 1902, Rev. Funsten along with Rev. Charles Deuel, dedicated St. Michael’s Cathedral in front of a crowd of over 500 people. This beautiful, Gothic cathedral was built with sandstone from Table Rock and still stands at State and 8th Streets in downtown Boise. At 116 years old, the building continues to host five worship services per week for its parishioners.
In the December following the dedication of the cathedral, Rev. Funsten also founded St. Luke’s Hospital, which began as a cottage filled with just six beds. Nurses were scarce, so St. Luke's Hospital added a school of nursing in 1903. For decades, St. Michael's Women's Auxiliary supported the hospital by making bandages and dressings for surgery, furnishing patient rooms, sewing layettes for the nursery, and buying lab equipment. Thousands of dollars were raised annually at the church-sponsored St. Luke's Ball. Today St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center is Idaho’s largest hospital and is a not-for-profit health system, treating approximately 325,000 people a year.
Reverend Funsten died in Boise at the age of 62, and his body was returned to Virginia for burial. Although he was not born or buried here, his life had a lasting effect on our city!