Local History ≠ Local Economics


The church across the alley from WC’s house in Boise was going to be condemned. The roof trusses had failed under the past winter’s snow load. The damage is obvious from the outside.

Roof damage to neighborhood church, North End, Bloise

Roof damage to neighborhood church, North End, Bloise

Folks said it “couldn’t be repaired,” but what they meant was that the cost of repairs was too high, more than the economic value of the church. Lots in the North End of Boise are valuable, even encumbered by a gently collapsing building. The church sits on two such lots. So the church is being torn down. Economics.

WC talked to a couple of parishoners. One told WC she’d been married in the church; all of her children had been baptized there; and she’d buried her husband there. The emotional value of the building was incalculable to her. But emotional value doesn’t count for much in our society. Economics again.

Demolition started July 7. Photographing the process was irresistible.

Dust control was problematic, but this was clever. The backhoe operator lifted the water heater out of the basement, punched holes in it, and used the water to tamp down dust

Dust control was problematic, but this was clever. The backhoe operator lifted the water heater out of the basement, punched holes in it, and used the water to tamp down dust

About two-thirds of the building was demolished the first day, with the debris systematically sorted. Metals, which have value, to one side; blocky brick columns to the other side. The rest the debris was temporarily packed in the basement. The debris will be hauled to the landfill in the Boise foothills.

By twilight, only the two story foyer was left. It will come down next.

Sure Boise needs more housing. The vacancy rates are very low, and houses in the North End sell very, very quickly. But history is being demolished, too, as well as the building.

No, WC isn’t looking forward to the noise and the dust of the rest of the demolition, or the noise and dust of construction of two new houses. But WC’s pain is nothing to the church members.

It’s so much easier to measure value than worth. Capitalism remains a flawed system.

 

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