Founded in 1995, the Idaho Black History Museum is a 501 (c)3 organization established to educate individuals about the history and culture of African Americans, with special emphasis on African Americans in Idaho. Housed in the historic St. Paul Baptist Church Americans in Idaho. Housed in the historic St. Paul Baptist Church building and located in Boise's Julia Davis Park, the museum presets exhibits and provides educational and community outreach programs including lectures, films, workshops, literacy programs, and musical performances.
The Idaho Black History Museum is housed in the former St. Paul Baptist Church Building. St. Paul is one of two African American churches that were founded by Boiseans in 1908. St. Paul was built in 1921, and is one of the oldest buildings constructed by Idaho African Americans. When the St. Paul congregation moved to a new church in 1993, the historic church was donated to a preservation committee, which formed to save and restore the 72-year old building.
Built solely by church members, the church is architecturally significant as a vernacular structure with clapboard siding, stained glass windows and bungalow elements. The church provided an important meeting place for black people in Boise long before other social organizations were established. The church is historically significant as one of two churches in existence in Idaho with a predominantly black congregation. St. Paul Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
St. Paul's Early Years
St. Paul's congregation began as a "house fellowship," with people meeting for Sunday worship in different homes. As the meetings outgrew people's homes, church leaders began to look for a building to rent. The first mention of the church in public record can be found in the 1909 Boise City Directory, which indicates that the congregation met in a small building at 6th and Front streets. The young parish was unable to sustain the meeting house at that time and went back to meeting in homes for several years. AS Boise continued to grow, church leaders decided to build their own church. The last Mrs. N. Gestal of 124 Broadway Avenue donated the property, and in 1921 a building permit was issued. The church's first pastor, Reverend Willliam Riley Hardy, was by trade a skilled carpenter and did most of the heavy work. He was assisted by his father-in-law, Louis Stokes, who was also the church trustee.
William Riley Hardy's ministry as pastor ended after almost two decades, not long after the completion of the church. Leadership upheavals followed between 1925 and 1928. The Reverend D.D. Banks helped set the church on a more secure financial footing. Later pastors included Rev. James Hubbard, 1966 to 1972, and Dr. H. Lincoln Oliver, 1972 to 1988. During this time the congregation was able to afford the services of a full-time pastor. Rev. Oliver put the church on legal footing by registration of its constitution and by-laws with Idaho's Secretary of State.