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If you have ever travelled down Main Street, past Old Boise and all the party places around downtown, you’ll find an old stone building that doesn’t really get a whole lot of attention anymore. But, back in the day, this building was among the most popular you could find in all of Idaho.
It looks a little forbidding with its large, gray blocks stacked high enough to come off as a little intimidating and the iron bars across the windows make it seem more like a jail than anything else. But it wasn’t people locked in this building in the late 1800s.
Back then, they had treasure locked up in there!
Way back in 1870, the US government decided that the California gold rush, as well as other frenzied movements to mine precious metals across the west, had grown enough in size and popularity that it was time to setup Assay offices across the region.
One such office was built in Boise, Idaho, with a budget of $75,000.
Alexander Rossi, a notable Boise citizen we will learn more about in future articles, donated the land on which it stands today.
But what is an assay office?
This is the building where mining companies, as well as private individuals, would have their precious minerals assessed. The US government would apply its rigorous standards to ensure that consumers buying up precious metals were not cheated by those claiming to have extracted them from the earth.
The Assay Office in Boise has assessed more than $75,000,000 worth of gold and other precious metals during the time it was operating.
But it has been long since the Boise Assay Office looked at any gold. Currently it is under the care of the Idaho State Historical Society and Archaeological Survey of Idaho.
But you can still go visit at any time. Visitors and picnickers are welcome on the grounds, but not inside, unfortunately.
Next time you are in downtown Boise, Go! see the Boise Assay and appreciate that, as the plaque on its wall says, it “possesses exceptional value in commemorating and illustrating the history of the United States.”