Teaching Preservation: Telling the Story of St. John’s Cathedral

Posted on: September 18th, 2009 by Guest Writer 3 Comments

Written by Kim M.

St. John’s Cathedral is a Catholic church that has been a major part of Boise’s history since 1906

St. John’s Cathedral is a Catholic church that has been a major part of Boise’s history since 1906. Stay tuned as we help tell its story.

The issue of Cole and Franklin Elementaries is, sadly, coming to a close. We've made our case at a rally and at a school board meeting, but the decision makers have stuck to their policy and the demolition of Franklin is underway. Perhaps the lesson here is to look ahead and get started early when and where preservation is needed. The community will miss these old schools, but hopefully their memory will live on.

Now, let's switch gears from a current debate to a future project that the Boise Architecture Project will work on this year.

St. John’s Cathedral is a Catholic church that has been a major part of Boise’s history since 1906. It has supported local charities and created many groups and programs that have greatly benefited the people of Boise. I, as well as many other Timberline students, had the extreme pleasure to interview Mr. Charles Hummel last spring in the cathedral about his involvement in its extensive renovation in the 1970’s. We also asked him about his grandfather, Charles Hummel, who was one of the main architects when the church was constructed in the early 20th century. We learned that Hummel Architects is a business that has influenced Boise tremendously over the past 100 years. Some of their major projects include Boise High School, some add-ons to Boise State University, the Capitol, and many esteemed homes. The cathedral itself is a grand piece of architecture and one of my favorite places in town.

The church's beautiful stained glass windows.

The church's beautiful stained glass windows.

St. John’s was built in the Romanesque style, which is a style that you don’t see very often, especially in a small city like Boise. From the sky, the building is shaped in a cross and the top is covered in towers and decorations of all sorts. The main door is a rough, heavy duty wooden door, and the inside is full of stained glass windows that beautifully depict the Catholic religion.

The church also contains a huge pipe organ, which was played for us after our interview.

What we are hoping to do this coming year is to help preserve the memory of this great church. The impact of this church on Boise is incredible, and it is heartbreaking that many people of Boise don’t realize it. We have applied for several grants to help us along our way. Our plan is to make a documentary on the cathedral’s history and its impact on Boise. We hope that this educational video will help preserve the church’s history and increase knowledge among locals who don’t know much about the cathedral.

I’m so excited to work on this project with my fellow students and to help document the history of St. John’s for the good people of Boise. I invite you all to stay tuned for more!

Kim M. is a student at Boise’s Timberline High School and is participating in the Boise Architecture Project. You can follow the students here on the PreservationNation blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, get daily updates from their teacher, Doug StanWiens, on Twitter.

Are you an educator interested in teaching preservation in your classroom? Visit PreservationNation.org for resources, tips, and ideas to enhance your curriculum with lessons that will teach your students to recognize and appreciate the rich history that surrounds them.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.


3 Responses

  1. Laura Goff Parham

    September 19, 2009

    One thing that would help spread the word is to make the internet work for you. Put a link in your article to St. John’s web site. Put close up photos of the stained glass on either this article or St. John’s web site. People love stained glass. Put a different photo of stained glass or a unique part of their architecture on the web (flicker) daily. With the photo, include a blurb about preserving this facility. Use key words in your blurb and blogs.

    Good luck on your projects. It is very important to keep our land marks.

    Laura Goff Parham

  2. Geri C

    September 21, 2009

    How very, very sad that the school board was unwilling to be creative in dealing with these wonderful old buildings. As a Phoenix resident, I found so much joy in my recent visit to Boise and Nampa as my grandfather and I drove around town lloking at old buildings and homes while he told me about his experiences in each of the structures we looked at. There is very little in the way of history in Phoenix, as no one here values these old homes and structures like in other cities. It’s a shame that the school board is so focused on dollars that they forgot one of the most important lessons our educators can teach our young people: to honor and cherish our past. Shame on them for not working harder to find a solution that would have left the buildings standing as an homage to idaho education and history. Keep up the good work.

  3. PreservationNation » Blog Archive » Teaching Preservation: Interview with a Local Legend

    September 25, 2009

    […] classmates and I have shared a few posts (here and here) recently about the history of Boise’s historic St. John’s Cathedral. Today, I would like […]