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Owyhee Hotel – Gentry

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For a long time hotels had been a huge part of the Boise lifestyle. A small remote town, deep in the Northwest, got its first hotel in 1866, the Overland hotel. Then in 1901, the Idanha was built, and for a decade was the home to thousands of visitors. But in 1910, the Owyhee hotel was completed in downtown Boise. The business opened up with rich interior decorations involving gold plated fountains, Japanese imports, lavish bathroom furnishings, and a grand ballroom. With a complete set of amenities, the Owyhee was the symbol of the most modern hotel in the Northwest. The Owyhee had 250 rooms, 150 private baths, and 6 large dining rooms. The lobby was so astounding that it commonly held up to 1000 people during grand events and conventions. It was not the personal baths or lavish styling’s that brought in the costumers. Up until the opening of the Owyhee Hotel, the Idanha catered to politicians, famous visitors and even Presidents. So the Owyhee opened up a rooftop with massive columns and beamed ceiling. The garden had a distinct Craftsman style influence, and to the popular Japanese style (seen with the Japanese paper lanterns hung from the rafters.) The Owyhee Hotel featured a rooftop garden which hosted a variety of famous politicians and musicians, and has been a common location for receptions, anniversaries, weddings, and other celebrations for decades.

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The roof garden was the Owyhee Hotels most unique feature and its biggest enticement. But it was not just a garden. It was a full bar, complete restaurant, with a complete stage vith live musicians. The current residents of the hotel and selected guest could enjoy alcoholic beverages on ice, while watching the latest cabaret show or musical artist. The breeze on top of the building was like a constant air conditioner to weathered patrons of Boise. The evenings on the rooftop was the spot to jig and shake, while the ballroom downstairs was for just good old fashioned dancing. Whatever vice you wanted could be gained at the Owyhee hotel. Prostitution was close by and alcohol was abundant. Famous celebrities and politicians visited the Owyhee, and they never left discontented or unsatisfied. It is currently unknown if there was a prostitution ring within the hotel, but many prostitution arrests were made on its grounds.
During Prohibition the bars were closed down but the parties continued. A prominent Boise businessman Leo J. Falk supplied a considerable amount of money to reconstruct certain areas of the hotel and bring it into the modern day. Although little proof is made available due to the illegal nature of alcohol during prohibition, it would easy to say that the Owyhee Hotel, which entertained politicians and local law enforcement regularly, continued to do more than party on the rooftop. By the mid-50s most of the draw for the lavish lifestyle began to disappear, and along with it the age where the Owyhee was king. Due to many other affordable hotels began springing up all over Boise, and the economic shift to the middle class, the Owyhee was in trouble for several years. The top three floors of the hotel were bought by the Ore-Ida company in the 60s to use as their corporate headquarters, and the area is now converted into office spaces. Even with all these remodels, the hotel has kept its original charm, and some renovations fit seamlessly with the building, while others give it an updated look.
However, today, the vast ballroom and the roof garden are gone, but the new Owyhee Plaza Hotel has been refurbished and renovated to provide a classic yet modern experience. The Owyhee Plaza Hotel is a good choice for any Boise visitor.

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Owyhee Hotel, ca. 1914.

Beal, Merrill D., and Merle W. Wells. 1959. History of Idaho. New York: Lewis Historical Pub. Co.
D’Easum, Dick. 1983. The Idanha: guests and ghosts of an historic Idaho inn. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers.
Derig, Betty B. 1996. Roadside history of Idaho. Missoula, Mont: Mountain Press Pub. Co.
Boise Architectural Project. http://www.boisearchitecture.org/structuredetail.php?id=1396
Owyhee Plaza Hotel. http://www.owyheeplaza.com/
Rooftop Picture. http://www.vintagepostcards.org/boise-idaho-owyhee-hotel-rooftop-garden-japanese-lantern-p-5688.html

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