John E. Tourtellotte

John Everett Tourtellotte (February 22, 1869 – May 8, 1939) was a prominent western American architect, best known for his projects in Idaho. His work in Boise included the Idaho State Capitol, the Boise City National Bank, the Carnegie Library, and numerous other buildings for schools, universities, churches, and government institutions. From 1922 to 1930, he worked in Portland, Oregon.

He was associated with partnerships John E. Tourtellotte & Company and Tourtellotte & Hummel, based in Boise. Works by these firms were covered in a 1982 study and many of the buildings were immediately or later listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tourtellotte was born in East Thompson, Connecticut, to a well-respected French Huguenot family. His father, Charles W. Tourtellotte, was a prosperous farmer and grist-mill owner. At age 17, he enrolled as an apprentice to the architectural firm of Cutting & Bishop, based in Webster, Massachusetts, where he studied architectural drawing for two years. During this time, he supervised roof construction for the Butler Insane Asylum in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Anne & Hope factory in Lonsdale, which was then the largest factory in the United States.

Following his apprenticeship, Tourtellotte traveled westward, working on construction projects in Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Pueblo, Colorado, before arriving in Boise in 1890, months after Idaho achieved statehood.

His architectural and construction business thrived in Boise, and by 1894, Tourtellotte devoted his business entirely to architecture. In 1903, he formed a partnership with German immigrant Charles Hummel (1857–1939), a university-trained architect who had previously worked for Tourtellotte’s architecture and construction business.

Though the firm’s headquarters were moved to Portland in 1913, the Boise office was retained. The partnership was dissolved in 1922, and Tourtellotte then partnered with one of Charles Hummel’s sons, fellow architect Frank K. Hummel (1892–1961). The two shared a Portland office from 1922 until Tourtellotte’s retirement in 1930, and Frank Hummel worked there until its closure around 1934, when he returned to Boise. *Tourtellote continued to work as he designed a proposed Portland City Hall in 1933 with architect Truman E. Phillips as well as a completed project, Linn County Courthouse in Albany, OR, which was in the building stages at the time of his death, also with Mr. PHillips, according to „Architect and Engineer“, Vols. 136-139, page 55.

After retiring, Tourtellotte continued to live in Portland, where he died on May 8, 1939. He and his wife Della (1869–1946) are buried in Idaho at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.

Tourtellotte was known for combining architectural motifs from disparate styles and eras, and the domed Idaho State Capitol is celebrated for its use of natural light. To celebrate the opening of the state capitol, Tourtellotte wrote an essay where he compared the architectural styles of various eras to the state of spiritual and moral development of civilization evident during those times, with the use of illumination and light signifying the increasing spiritual enlightenment of humanity. The state capitol underwent an extensive restoration which was completed in 2010.

Tourtellotte also designed the replacement Administration Building at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Construction of the Tudor Gothic-style structure began in 1907 and the main building was completed in 1909; its wings in 1912 and 1916. Based on the Hampton Court Palace in England, the UI Administration Building is a campus icon and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, at age 69.

Tourtellotte fraternal affiliations were with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Freemasons, and the Kiwanis.