The Idaho Heritage Trust Celebrates 15 Years
Idaho Public Television &
Rupert's Wilson Theater to Receive Awards

Gaetha Pace
Executive Director, The Idaho Heritage Trust
(208) 549-1778 or 720-6571,

Suzanne Budge
Chair, Board of Trustees

Fifteen years ago, the Idaho Centennial Foundation and the Idaho State Legislature worked together to create a lasting legacy for the people of Idaho: The Idaho Heritage Trust. This year, the Trust will celebrate its fifteenth birthday by recognizing two remarkable organizations that epitomize the Trust's goal of saving historic Idaho for tomorrow: The Renaissance Arts Center's Wilson Theater in Rupert, a project that illustrates rural Idaho's overwhelming desire to preserve the history, beauty and livability of their small communities, and Idaho Public Television's Designing Idaho, a program that commemorates the distinctive mark architecture has made on the Idaho landscape. The awards will be presented at the Trust's annual legislative reception February 9 in Boise.

Designing Idaho Idaho Public Television
A community gains much of its identity from its natural setting and in Idaho those settings can be magical. But it's the architecture that tells us who we are . . . and helps us to remember where we came from like nothing else can. This hour long program explores Idaho's architectural heritage. The program producers traveled the state exploring some of Idaho's oldest and grandest buildings - like the Cataldo Mission and the Paris Tabernacle - as well as some of Sun Valley's finest residences. The Trust asked Bruce Reichert why IPTV chose Outdoor Idaho as the vehicle to explore this subject. "As to your question about why we chose this topic at this particular time," Reichert said. "Over the years we've explored the notion that Idaho's geology and geography plays a major role in who we are as a state. And certainly landscape and architecture are - or should be - intertwined as well. Even though it might seem a stretch at first blush, I think it was inevitable that Outdoor Idaho one day would devote an entire show to exploring Idaho's architectural heritage."

"We chose to recognize the program Designing Idaho," said Trust Chair Suzanne Budge, "because the film reflects the feeling many on the Trust board have, that the landscape would not be Idaho without the creamy white columns and facade of the mission church at Cataldo, the soft rounded brick kilns at Birch Creek, or the brick and log buildings holding claim to the hills of Chesterfield. This program holds our architecture up for all to see."

back to top

The Renaissance Arts Center in the Wilson Theater, Rupert
Daniel Ward and Mennie Wilson built the Wilson Theater in 1920. The 10,000 square foot building flat iron building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is in Rupert's Historic Business District. The community formed the Renaissance Arts Center Board in 1999 and have raised over $700,000 from grants, donations and fundraisers. In kind contributions of labor of over $150,000 have also helped tremendously to get the restoration off to a great start. They still have a ways to go to reach their $2.5 million goal which they hope to complete the project by 2006 in time for Rupert's Centennial.

"The Trust has worked with eight historic theaters in Idaho in these first fifteen years," said Ms. Schaefer. "The thing that most struck the trustees about the Wilson Theater is how this small town, facing layoffs and economic stress, works together to restore an historic building as a center for the arts, education and economic development. It sends a clear message to the world about the vitality and enthusiasm of Rupert, Idaho. They have come far and have a ways to go. We want to encourage them to keep up the good fight."

back to top

The Idaho Heritage Trust
It has been a busy fifteen years. The Idaho Heritage Trust has awarded 371 grants to 235 organizations since it was created in the minds of state leaders in 1989. Grants and/or technical advice have been provided in every county in Idaho. Two thirds of the grants have been given to projects in towns of fewer than 5000 population, three-fourths to towns of fewer than 10,000.


1989: Members of the Idaho Centennial Foundation create the Idaho Heritage Trust and gift the remaining assets of the Centennial Commission to the newly formed organization. The endowment now exceeds $4 million in license plate and privately raised funds. Because the goal of the Centennial Legislature and Centennial Foundation was to preserve examples of early Idaho history Trust grants are used for bricks and mortar projects and for the conservation of important artifacts.

In 1990 and 1991 start up funds provided by Boise Cascade Corporation, Albertsons, the Janss Foundation, First Security Bank, H.F. Magnuson Foundation, Basic American Foods, West One Bank, William Hewlett, the H.J. Heinz Foundation and many more individuals and corporations made it possible for Trustees to begin awarding grants in 1990 and 1991 long before any funds were available from the Trust endowment.

Among the first grants awarded by the Trust in 1990 was $125,000 to the Chesterfield Foundation for the preservation of the agrarian ghost town in southeastern Idaho. Idaho born F. Ross Peterson, Chairman of the History Department at Utah State University since 1976 says this about Chesterfield:

There is a strange beauty and a compelling fascination about Chesterfield. The small cemetery directly south of the church, the old tithing house, the enduring log homes, the fine brick structures, and the unfinished roads prompt further inquiry. What happened to the dream of another Mormon village flourishing in the Western landscape? Chesterfield, Idaho, is one of the best preserved villages established by the Mormons in the nineteenth century.

In 1990 the Trust took the lead in protecting and keeping the historic Campbell's Ferry ranch on the Salmon River in private ownership using covenant restrictions. Frances Zaunmiller Wisner, noted Idaho journalist, lived in her cabin from 1946 until her death in 1986. In her own words: People who have lived in Idaho most of their lives have no idea how beautiful this country is. I have a mountain for my back yard; black bear visit me and steal apples and peaches; nine cow elk have declared squatters rights on the alfalfa field; the deer don't bother to leave the salt log when I go to the barn. I have been here since 1940. In 1941 a hen grouse raised her brood under the raspberries in the garden. She has done the same each year since.

1993 AVISTA Corporation created an $213,000 endowment within the Trust endowment. John and Connie Taylor of Lewiston added $50,000 to this Northern Idaho endowment. Each year grants are awarded in the AVISTA service area.

1993 The Trust provided $65,000 to help celebrate the Oregon Trail Sesquicentennial in Idaho. As stated in the report that came from that celebration:

As a prominent feature of the great western expansion, the Oregon Trail led directly to the settlement of the Pacific Northwest, to the 1846 treaty with Great Britain defining the northwest boundary of the United States, and to the settlement of much of the interior of the nation. Over 580 miles of emigrant trail remnants still exist in Idaho.

In 1994 and 1995 the Trust began a program that was to become our most popular. Frederick Walters, preservation architect, began working with the Trust providing technical assistance to community leaders on preservation of historic buildings. In recent years the Trust also began to provide information about artifact and photograph conservation as well as limited fund raising assistance. Each year this service is provided to fifteen to twenty groups in Idaho.

In 1998 Idaho Power Company made a lead gift and the Murdock Trust, Paul Allen Foundation, William Hewlett, US Bank, First Security Bank, Bank of America, Gene and JoAnn Thompson, Richard and Pat Hauff, and Marilyn Sabella joined to make it possible for the Trust to purchase the Glade Creek Camp along the Lewis and Clark Trail and present it as a gift to the people of Idaho. The words of William Clark, September 13, 1805: We fell on a small creek from the left which passed through open glades some of which were one-half mile wide. We proceeded down this creek about two miles to where the mountains closed on either side, and encamped. Governor Phil Batt, his wife Jackie, John Taylor, Trust chair at the time, and noted author Dr. Stephen Ambrose and many others helped to make this Trust dream possible.

In 1998 the Trust published the Traveling History Book featuring the first 116 Trust projects. The buildings and artifacts featured in the book tell the history of Idaho in projects likes the Italian Settlement School outside Priest River, the Black History Museum in Boise, the New Meadows Depot, the Howell Opera House in Oakley and many, many others. The book, a brainchild of trustee Bev Harad, continues to be the best tool to help communities visualize how their projects can succeed.

In 1999 through the urging of trustee Alan Minskoff, the Trust began a partnership with the Steele Reese Foundation that helps expand funding to rural Idaho. Each year $15,000 in additional grant funds have gone to towns with fewer than 5000 population.

"There never seems to be enough funds to do all that we're asked," said Suzanne Budge, chair of the Board of Trustees. "But we help where we can. I believe the most valuable assistance comes from the one on one technical advice provided around the state each year. I suppose what we do is all about finding the money and expertise to help communities help themselves through their pride in their traditions and history. But in the end, the Trust is really about the wonderful buildings, sites and artifacts, and the Idahoans who love them."

The Idaho Heritage Trust was founded by members of the Idaho Centennial Foundation as the lasting legacy of the State of Idaho Centennial Celebration held in 1990. When the Centennial concluded the remaining assets of the Foundation were given to the Idaho Heritage Trust. Among those assets was the protected design of the Centennial license plate, which is now the state license plate. By agreement with the Idaho Legislature, each vehicle owner pays 50 cents per plate manufactured into an endowment fund. The plate fee is paid only once every seven years and amounts to $1.00 per licensed vehicle every seven years.

In 1999 the Trust received a National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1997 and 1998 respectively Trust Director Gaetha Pace and Preservation Architect Frederick Walters received Distinguished Preservationist Awards from the Idaho State Historic Preservation Council. Trust offices are in the historic Oddfellows Hall in Bellevue.

Trustees are: Suzanne Budge, Boise, Chair; Governor Phil Batt, Wilder; John Chapman, Hailey; John Hansen, Idaho Falls; Beverly Harad, Boise; Richard Hauff, Salmon; John Hiler, Mountain Home; H.F. Magnuson, Wallace; Donna Kendell, Moscow; Alan Minskoff, Boise; Jerry Myers, Pocatello; Marilyn Sabella, Sandpoint; Paul Smith, Twin Falls, R. John Taylor, Lewiston; Tony Varilone, Soda Springs.

Previous Chairs: Glenn Janss, Sun Valley; Craig Call, now of Utah; R. John Taylor Lewiston; Paul Smith, Twin Falls Former Trustees: Glenn Janss, Sun Valley; Craig Call; Scott Reed, Coeur d' Alene; Miriam Breckenridge, Twin Falls; Dr. Mick Mickelson, Pocatello; Ted Ellis, Boise; Ray Rigby, Rexburg; Dr. Randall Morris, Mountain Home, Martin Peterson, Boise; Anne Voilleque, Idaho Falls; Ann Swanson, Boise; Ron Law, Montpelier; Dennis Bergvall, Caldwell; Gary Babbell, Twin Falls; Alan Giltzow, Boise; Gene Thompson, Moscow.

back to top

close window