The Chinese Masonic Hall was another notable location in Boise's Chinatown. The building housed several business, but most importantly, it was home to the temple of the community. When the Chinese were forced to relocate the Chinatown district, the Masonic Hall was built on the corner of Seventh and Front Street. Chinese temples were routinely called "Joss Houses" by Euroamericans and were essentially the place where those Chinese still practicing their native religion. In Boise, the Joss House was located in the Chinese Masonic Hall. The temple was a sight to behold! Sadly there is only one picture surviving which portrays the original temple area of the Hall. The original was lost in a fire and so only a copy published in the newspaper remains. The temple was a fascinating place for the Euroamerican residents of Boise and the Idaho Statesman published several articles about the building and its god in residence. As a center piece for the temple altar, a bronze figure of Chin Law Guan (possibly Guan Yu?) had been brought over from China. Worshipers told reporters that the figure was very ancient, thousands of years old even, and had been brought over in the 1860's by some of the earliest Chinese residents of Boise. Other extravagant pieces adorned the altar, including a golden arch and an elaborate gold plated carving of a Chinese opera. The room was said to be bannered in silks and tents, with the altar adorned by sticks of incense and oil lamps. None of this was apparent to onlookers passing the building buy, many described the Hall as unassuming and rather commonplace. The beauty was housed within.
Sadly, the building was demolished in 1937. Most of the artifacts in the building had been taken home with those Chinese who were leaving the country altogether. Some were given to Euroamerican residents who had become close friends. And others were kept as heirlooms of families whose legacies continue on in Boise today. The only remains of the Joss House/Masonic Hall available for public viewing are now kept at the Idaho State Historical Museum in their Chinese exhibit. A reconstruction of the altar includes the golden opera carving and the balcony from the Hip Sing and Hop Sing Tong building.
To read more about the Chinese Masonic Hall, take a look at the book Chinatown-Boise, Idaho, 1870 - 1970 by Arthur A Hart.
Have any information about the Chinese Masonic Hall, the Boise Joss House, or the businesses that were housed in the hall? Share them with your fellow Boiseans here!