Assay Office (Boise, Idaho)

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Assay Office
Assay Office (Boise, Idaho) is located in Idaho
Assay Office (Boise, Idaho)
Assay Office (Boise, Idaho) is located in the US
Assay Office (Boise, Idaho)
Location 210 Main Street, Boise, Idaho
Coordinates 43°36′40.98″N 116°11′45.03″W / 43.6113833°N 116.1958417°W / 43.6113833; -116.1958417Coordinates: 43°36′40.98″N 116°11′45.03″W / 43.6113833°N 116.1958417°W / 43.6113833; -116.1958417
Area 2 acres (0.81 ha)
Built 1871
Architect Alfred B. Mullett; John R. McBride
NRHP Reference # 66000305
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL May 30, 1961[2]

The Assay Office is a historic building at 210 Main Street in Boise, Idaho. It is significant for its role in the history of mining in Idaho, and was the first major federal government building in the Idaho Territory. During the first half of the 1860s, Idaho’s gold production was the third highest in the nation. Due to the difficulty of transporting bulky, heavy ores the long distance to the nearest U.S. Mint in San Francisco, there was great demand for an assaying office in Idaho.[3] Gold and other precious metals are not mined in a pure form. In order to place a value on an ore, the precious metal must be separated from the impurities. This is what an assay office does.[4]

The building[edit]

In 1869, Congress appropriated $75,000 to build an assay office in Boise, Idaho. The city block site bounded by Main, First, Idaho and Second was donated by Alexander Rossi, a prominent citizen of Boise. Ground was broken in 1870, and the building was completed in 1871. The builder was John R. McBride, Chief Justice of Idaho. The building featured a cupola for ventilation and the interior doors were equipped with iron cages. The first floor of the building held the assayers offices, vaults and safes, assaying and melting rooms (furnaces), laboratory and reagents storage. The second floor was devoted to living quarters for the chief assayer. There was a parlor, pantry, dining room, kitchen and three bedrooms. The basement housed fuel and supply rooms, guards’ quarters and wells.[3]


All equipment was finally in place by the time of the first assay on March 2, 1872. Builder John R. McBride was appointed Superintendent of the Assay Office. Alexander Rossi, who donated the land, was temporary Chief Assayer.[4] By this time, mining was in a slump due to the playing out of surface mines. This slump lasted about a decade until further gold strikes were made in the northern part of the state. In 1887, the advent of the railroad in Idaho and an influx of capital made deep mining possible.[3] A few years after opening, the Assay Office had begun purchasing gold on behalf of the U.S. government.[5] By 1895, deposits were over one million dollars. For the next eleven years they averaged over one and a half million dollars per year.[3] Renovations on the building in 1889 and 1890 included a new fence, new floors, a hot and cold water system and electric lights.

Subsequent uses[edit]

The Assay Office closed in 1933 and the building was turned over to the United States Forest Service for use as offices. Renovations at that time included removing the iron bars from the windows, adding windows to the back wall, removal of the vaults and assaying furnaces and rearrangement of partitions. The Assay Office was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961, recognizing its significant role in the state's development.[2][3] In 1972 the building was turned over to the Idaho State Historical Society.[3] It currently houses the State Historical Preservation Office and the Archaeological Survey of Idaho.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Assay Office". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Blanche Higgins Schroer (April 1, 1976) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Assay Office, National Park Service and Accompanying 1 photo, exterior, from 1960
  4. ^ a b Arthur Hart (2007-11-13). "Idaho history: Boise's U.S. Assay Office is the city's only national landmark". The Idaho Statesman. Retrieved 2008-02-03. [dead link]
  5. ^ "The Old Assay Office In Boise" (PDF). Reference Series. Boise, Idaho: Idaho State Historical Society, Public Archives and Research Library. 1974. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  6. ^ "IdahoState Historical Society". Archived from the original on 20 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 

External links[edit]