In 2003 members of a North End group named the Hyde Park Community Youth Center applied for and successfully got the Immanuel M.E. Church included in the Preservation Idaho and National Historic Trust statewide list of the “Top Ten Most Endangered” list of threatened or endangered historic places. Since then Jon Swarthout and his nonprofit Treasure Valley Institute for Children’s Arts (TRICA) has raised and spent over $1.5 Million to remove hazardous waste, restore the building’s infrastructure and renovate the interior and exterior. Trica opened in 2021 marking the successful conclusion of almost two decades of work.
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Immanuel M.E. Church Background
Built as a mission church for Boise’s expanding Methodist congregation, this church was designed by Idaho’s most important architectural firm, Tourtellotte and Hummel, with adherence to the popular Akron Plan of church design in a unique Romanesque structure.
In the late 1970s, with a diminishing congregation, the building was sold into private hands to an owner who planned to convert the building into apartments. This idea proved too difficult to see through to completion and by the time of the inclusion of this building on the “most endangered sites list”, it had suffered for decades from lack of appreciation, insufficient maintenance, and neglect. In 1980, as a precaution, neighbors applied to have the building place on the National Register of Historic Places.
The church changed ownership and then fell into disrepair, lying vacant for years. By the 1990s, the church had become a haven for methamphetamine (meth) use and production. Typical meth production uses toxic ingredients and creates toxic, explosive, and flammable by-products and leaves behind a harmful residue.
The Immanuel Methodist Episcopal Church has been purchased by the Treasure Valley Institute for Children’s Arts or TrICA and the chapter named the “Hyde Park Community Center” was closed.
Local resident and former professional ballet dancer Jon Swarthout had a vision to create the Treasure Valley Institute for Children’s Arts (TrICA) community center by redeveloping the church property. Eventually, Swarthout acquired the property. In November of 2007, he launched a community kickoff event to introduce the planned redevelopment of the church. Swarthout recruited volunteers and private funds. Within four months, TrICA was awarded a $100,000 grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation that helped launch a capital campaign. Architects, engineers, lawyers, residents, and landscapers provided in-kind services that totaled more than $400,000.
By 2007, the church was contaminated with toxic materials—lead paint, meth, and suspected asbestos. (click here to review the Public Health Consultation.) Extensive remediation to remove lead and meth contamination began. It was especially important to remove toxins to protect young children who would participate in future TrICA programs. One unintentional bonus was the discovery of some structural weaknesses that could not have withstood the remediation; the structural integrity was restored.
Preservation Idaho is pleased that Jon Swarthout of TRICA “included us early in their plans, and it is with honor that we announce – only four years after our initial listing of this building – that Preservation Idaho will partner in the rehabilitation of this important piece of Boise’s social and architectural history.”
The Immanuel ME Church renovation has been a featured project on Preservation Idaho – click here
One of the primary goals of the project according to Jon Swarthout, founder and director of the Children’s Dance Institute and TRICA will remain, “to restore the Immanuel M.E. Church at the corner of 14th and Eastman”. The “Old” Church was built just after the turn of the last century.
The church was designed by the architects of the Idaho State Capitol, J. E. Tourtellotte and Hummel. The chief architect is reported to have been Mr. Hummel of the firm. It is a rare and unique building and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Church operated and was a center of the Northend neighborhood community until the mid 1980s, when it was purchased as a private residence and the interior and fixtures were dismantled and sold off. It was then sold again and not well-maintained or renovated and continued to deteriorate.
TrICA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. For more information about the project and TRICA go to www.trica.org
To find out how you can support this project contact call (208) 484-0142.