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Historic Boise library won’t be artists’ home after all


A plan to convert Boise’s historic Carnegie Library into artist studios is not moving forward.  Developer Ken Howell hoped to turn the 1905 building on Washington St. into a space for artists – but technical snags scuttled the project.

Howell’s Alexa Rose Foundation announced plans to remake the building as the Carnegie Studios earlier this year. The idea would have given artists workspace in the grand two-story sandstone building.

Howell and the building’s owner, St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral, looked to hammer out an agreement for Alexa Rose to buy the building and pay off the existing mortgage – then sell the building back to the parish in fifteen years for $100.

“Very sadly and unfortunately, the Carnegie Library will not be a future home for Boise’s artists,” Howell said. “The Alexa Rose Foundation and St. Michael’s could not agree upon a legal document that would transfer ownership to the Foundation for a period of fifteen years.”

He said getting a legal document in place with both sale and lease terms were hard to find an agreement on, so after ten months of work, the parties decided to go their separate ways.

“We worked very hard to try and get there but just could not,” St. Michael’s Dean Richard Demarest said.  

The 13,500 square foot building is under contract with Colliers according to Demarest.  Its previous tenant – a law firm – moved out this spring. The building has been vacant in recent months.

Famed local architects Charles Tourtellotte and John Hummel designed the building using sandstone from the Table Rock quarry. Primary funding came from Andrew Carnegie, who donated to 2,500 libraries around the world including 1,700 the United States.  It served as Boise’s main library until 1972 when the books were moved to the current site on Capitol Blvd.

Howell says despite not being able to come to an agreement on the building, the foundation named for his late wife, an artist, has meaningful projects ahead.

“The Alexa Rose Foundation is looking at several other options to aid local artists, and to become more actively involved in their work,” he said. “The grant program, soon to start its fifth year, will continue with a request for grants next month.”

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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