The top architecture styles in Idaho designed by some Ketchum, Idaho architects are the result of the state’s history and topography. Moreover, this led to styles representing two distinct personalities: the Sun Valley Lifestyle, which serves as a rival to Aspen, CO., and the sprawling mountain ranch designs that utilize natural resources for materials and design.
It might seem at first that these two architectural styles are in opposition to one another. However, both rely on the abundance of natural beauty and the open spaces that are distinctive features of Idaho.
Historical Architecture Styles
The oldest evidence of architecture styles in Idaho dates back to 5,000 years along the Clearwater River. Archeologists dug deep into the earth and found ten structures where Nimiipuu ancestors once lived around that time; it was also when the Indian tribes started using horses imported from Europe. With easier Buffalo hunting on horseback, a shift to Buffalo hide teepees became more common.
The Church of the Latter Day Saints started building precisely chiseled stone architecture around 1800. Fur traders made the only other non-indigenous buildings at this time in Idaho. However, settlers found potato farming and precious gems, bolstering populations. Various architectural styles followed, all highlighting open spaces.
From Whence They Came
Idaho became a state in 1890. Consequently, the state’s architecture has just over a hundred and thirty years of history. Further complicating an architecture styles in Idaho identifiably “Idahoan” is that Idaho is the only state in the Union that occupies two time zones. The geographic area is diverse, from the northwestern Rocky Mountains to the prairies, plains, and irrigated agricultural fields to the south.
What Idaho has a lot of is wild. About 63% of Idaho’s land area is public. The Bureau of Land Management Idaho is responsible for 32 million acres of pristine land. Additionally, this means very little has changed for most of the state in the past century. There are hundreds of square miles with zero human imprint.
The architecture in populated areas tends to reflect the style its founders imported to the site.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS)
The Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, were early pioneers of Idaho. Brigham Young sent pilgrims into what is now Idaho as early as 1855. When Idaho became a state, 20% of the population were Mormons. Their church reflects the beauty of architecture styles in Idaho.
Temple architecture within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is mixed but creates an influential and recognizable appearance. For example, the Tabernacle, built in Montpelier, Idaho, just 13 years after Idaho gained statehood, is an architectural mixture of what historians described as “Art Deco, Prairie, and Neoclassical-Revival Styles.”
Over the next few decades, LDS architecture defined several large buildings in Idaho. Today, almost 25% of Idaho still identifies as LDS. The only state with a higher percentage is Utah. Consequently, “LDS temple architecture” remains prevalent in Idaho.
Sun Valley Architecture Styles In Idaho
This style arrived in the 1930s with Idaho’s first major ski resort. The first chair ski lifts in the world came to life in 1936 on Proctor and Dollar Mountains. Idaho has been a ski resort leader ever since, spawning the “Sun Valley Lifestyle.”
Early explorers to Idaho camping in what became Ketchum, Idaho, wrote, “The place was promising, the weather fine and the grass good, so that our worn out horses both fed and rested.” Over the next few decades, millionaires, and now billionaires, seek the same “roughing it with comfort” environment the early pioneers enjoyed.
While the interiors of high-end contemporary construction may sport ultramodern conveniences, the architecture, by and large, retains the connection to the unique beauty of the surrounding land. Each new building or refurbishment project combines old Western charm, contentment, and elegance.
Mountain Vs. Prairie Architecture
In mountain architecture, designers must consider the varying terrain levels. Another consideration is the shifting course of the sun as it moves through seasonal changes against the mountain rise. Often mountain structures are multi-leveled vertically. In addition, architects must make accommodations for seasonal water runoffs and potential collection sites after storms.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Frank Lloyd Wright created an architectural style based on the Prairies of the midwestern United States. It was considered the first example of “American Architecture.” Until then, it was common to see a variety of architectural styles lining a single street in the rapidly expanding western frontier. The famous architect perceived a “lack of unity” in urban planning when domestic architecture simply reproduced European styles so that Gothic revival sat next to French Country and Italian Baroque types.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Architecture expanded living space horizontally, not vertically. He utilized horizontal blocks of visual definition with color and unique masses. The impression the architect wanted to convey was to invoke the midwestern expansion through the Prairies. It was a design that shaped his entire career.
With a northern border with Canada and town names like “Coeur d’Alene,” the Canadian influence in Idaho is obvious. Canadian architecture also found its way over the mountains. The original settlements in Northern Idaho were by French trappers who would often deal with local Indians.
Many late-Victorian and Craftsmen’s era houses made of brick still stand in Northern Idaho. One example is the Adlore Changnon House of 1897. However, it is in the Ridge Avenue Historic District, a National Register-listed neighborhood near downtown Idaho Falls. While new construction in this architectural style is limited, what is old often becomes new, and this style will likely pick up steam as future homeowners discover its quaint beauty.
The Future of Architecture in Idaho
As the urban areas of Idaho expand, so will architectural styles. The current trends indicate a return to nature with exteriors that blend into whichever site terrain builders develop. The concept of “rustic elegance” combined with technological advances opens options that embrace the past and the future.
Architectural designs worldwide and over time have been a window into the cultures that created the styles. In Idaho, it has been the indigenous, the French, the religious, and the affluent. So who, or what, will determine future top architectural styles in Idaho?
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