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During downtown Moscow’s signature period for growth development, the Hotel Moscow was developed by Robert Barton in 1892 and constructed by M.J. Shields and Company to replace the Barton House Hotel, a two-story wooden structure that had burned down the previous year. Brick and Boise sandstone compose the hotel’s Richardsonian Romanesque facades and help communicate a sense of permanence and high-style design in Moscow’s burgeoning core. Taylor and Lauder supplied the brick for the new Hotel Moscow, and for other commercial and bank buildings aspiring to utilize a more permanent and fire-proof material. The building also hosted a series of retail uses on the ground and split-level floors, including cigar and candy stores.
The identity of the architect for the hotel is unknown. Given the attention to detail and eloquent composition of the hotel’s primary facades, it seems unlikely that Barton designed the building without consulting an architect. The hotel bears a strong resemblance to Spokane architect Herman Preusse’s design for the 1890 Great Eastern Building in downtown Spokane. Preusse’s Richardsonian Romanesque building was destroyed by fire in 1898 and its exterior shell incorporated in a rebuild by architect Kirkand Cutter. Coincidentally with the Moscow Hotel’s design and construction, Preusse was actively engaged in designing College Hall for the newly founded Washington State College (University) just eight miles to the west of Moscow.
In 1937, the Hotel Moscow was expanded in tandem with the University of Idaho’s growing student enrollment. The compatible addition was designed by Ernest V. Price of the Spokane architecture firm, Whitehouse and Price. In 1959, Nicolas Bode purchased the building and continued operating it as a hotel until demand for downtown accommodations waned in favor of automobile-oriented motels. Bode responded to shifts in the market changes by converting the hotel’s upper floors to student apartments in 1974.
Architecturally, through its Richardsonian Romanesque-style massing and materiality, the Moscow Hotel continues to fulfill Barton’s aspirations to establish a commanding presence in the heart of a vibrant downtown. While some of the building’s distinctive ornamentation, including a bell-shaped cupola and curved stone pediments have been lost, adequate characteristics of the Richardsonian Romanesque style remain to help communicate the hotel’s former stature. Defining elements include use of light grey sandstone to contrast with brick exterior walls, cavernous arched stone entrances on principal facades, and rows of arched windows on the third floor capped with stone.
In keeping with Barton’s original vision, the former hotel also continues to provide an anchor for the social life of downtown Moscow, which has evolved into an entertainment district. The Garden Lounge, which has operated on the Moscow Hotel’s ground floor since the 1950s, remains a popular destination for area college students.
Julin, Suzanne, “Moscow Downtown Historic District,” Latah County, Idaho. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 2005. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington DC.
Monroe, J. Moscow: Living and Learning on the Palouse, Charleston, SC: Making of America Series, Arcadia Publishing, 2003.
Otness, L. A Great Good Country: A Guide to Historic Moscow and Latah County, Idaho. Moscow, ID: Local History Paper # 8, Latah County Historical Society, 1983.
Wright, Patricia, “Hotel Moscow,” Latah County, Idaho. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1978. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington DC.
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