Boundary County celebrates 98th birthday
January 23, 2013
County's original courthouse, formerly a
school and a hotel, housed county
government from 1915 through 1940.
On this day in 1915, Bonner County, Idaho, was
split and a new county, named Boundary, was
created, with its county seat established in
Two days later, Alexander Graham Bell placed the
first coast-to-coast telephone call from New
York City, ringing up trusted assistant Thomas
Watson in San Francisco. The big war in Europe
was just months old, and President Woodrow
Wilson was promising to keep the U.S. out of it.
Like the state itself, Boundary County was years
in the making.
When Idaho Territory was created by Congress
July 4, 1863, split off from the part of Oregon
Territory not included when Oregon became a
state in 1859, it included all of Montana and
most of Wyoming.
Montana gained statehood in 1889; what is now
Idaho became a state July 4, 1890, and Montana
became a state six days later on July 10.
Kootenai County, Idaho, comprising most of the
Idaho Panhandle, was formed in 1864. In 1907, it
was split in two with the formation of Bonner
County, which ran clear to the Canadian border.
On January 23, 1915, both Bonner and Kootenai
Counties were split again, forming both Boundary
and Benewah Counties.
According to Betty Douglas, the wood-frame
building that became the first Boundary County
Courthouse was located just east of the
present-day courthouse. It had originally been
built as a school, but was remodeled in 1907
into the West Hotel. The three-story building
was again remodeled to become the original
County Courthouse in 1915.
Stella Stoos Bangs, was the first county
stenographer, and she would spend the rest of
her life working in various offices for the
county, passing away January 4, 1984, just a few
days before the county turned 69 years old.
In the mid-1930s, in the midst of the Great
Depression, a Bonners Ferry newspaper man,
Charlie King, who owned and operated the Bonners
Ferry Herald at the time, was given much of the
credit for spurring the construction of a new
county courthouse, the one now located at 6452
A 60-percent super majority of votes was needed
to pass a $50,000 bond to build a new
courthouse; when put to voters, 70-percent said
yes, and county commissioners hired the firm of
White and Price, Spokane. The county applied to
have the structure built as a project of
Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Project
Administration, which would provide the labor
Because of the regularly flooding Kootenai
River, the architects recommended the building
be built of concrete, to be built on a cement
slab. Ground tests showed good silt going down
15-feet, allowing the 15-inch steel reinforced
slab, with an integral five-foot wall all around
the building, to be poured without the support
Clifford Hill, superintendent of construction,
oversaw the $365,000 project through dedication
After the old courthouse was torn down in 1940, a big
hole was excavated in the yard, and with great
fanfare the heavy cement vaults of the old
building were tipped in and buried.
It turned out that the advice White and Price
gave was good. In 1948, the Kootenai again
overflowed its banks and floodwaters rose eight
feet up the sides of the courthouse. Offices
were moved upstairs, business went on as usual
and the Boundary County Courthouse came through
Remember this? Add your comment!
Loved the picture of the old courthouse ! My
parents were from Bonners, and my mom (Winnie
Smith) used to tell me that she lived with her
family in an apartment above the old courthouse.
Now I can actually see what it must have looked
like back in the early 1920s when she lived
there, before getting married to my father,