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105-year-old building in downtown Idaho Falls is getting a facelift

Business & Money

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The historic post office building at 591 Park Avenue in downtown Idaho Falls is undergoing renovations. Get a look inside in the video player above. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS – Sheldon Christensen’s office at Ascents Benefits Advisors, a health insurance company in downtown Idaho Falls, is surrounded by history.

It occupies a small space in the northeast corner of a three-story building at 591 Park Avenue. The 20,000-square-foot structure dates back to 1914 and was once the home of the Post Office.

Christensen first acquired the building in 2015 and is currently working with Jenna Crapo and Ashley Webb from Ashley Webb Interiors to breathe new life into the 105-year-old building.

A renovation project is currently underway on the two suites on the main level. Christensen and his design team are upgrading the interior with new tile and doors. The ultimate goal is to lease out the office space to new tenants.

“The primary objective of this project is the entrance because it’s the first impression,” Christensen tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Our (hope) is to have someone walk in the door and say, ‘Is this all original?'”

The project got underway about a year ago during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses were shut down and the last remaining tenant, Nalder & Blake Law, had moved into a new building at 3940 Washington Parkway.

RELATED | 95-year-old building in downtown Idaho Falls is getting a facelift and has new owners

Christensen had an idea of what he wanted, but as he started tearing walls and doors down, he realized he was in over his head. He crossed paths with the ladies at Ashley Webb Interiors and they took Christensen’s vision to a whole new level.

“We came back with the approach of ‘Let’s give this a facelift and give it its heartbeat back and bring it back to its best but let’s honor the history of the building,'” Crapo says.

Some of the most noteworthy architectural features of the building are the big brass elevator inside the main entrance and the marble staircase on the north end.

Crapo says maintaining the look and feel of these features was pivotal in their design approach.

“Those are things you just don’t see anymore,” says Crapo. “The brass elevator was super important and the original marble baseboards. We took the inspiration for the doors from the windows of the surrounding buildings and architecture.”

Take a tour of the building in the video player above.

Downtown is the anchor of any city, Christensen says, and tells the story of its origin. He says the buildings in downtown are iconic and made-to-last and those qualities of strength and timelessness are what attracted him to this project.

A photo of the post office sometime in the 1920s. | Courtesy Sheldon Christensen

Construction of the historic post office was completed in 1916. A rear loading dock was added on the west side in 1936.

Documents from the National Register of Historic Places indicate E.P. Coltman was the first postmaster. He and his 26 employees moved into the building on March 10, 1916.

“On opening day, it was proclaimed that ‘it is doubtful if there is as handsome or well-equipped post office as the one in Idaho Falls or one installed in as handsome or more convenient building,'” the document explains.

Several federal agencies also occupied it over the years. Christensen says his dad remembers entering the building on the northeast side where Christensen’s office is now located to register for selective service. The building ceased being a post office around 1980 and became home to numerous private sector businesses over the years. Nalder & Blake Law and Banks Gaffney were the most recent tenants. Park Avenue Advisors, a financial planning business, is located on the third floor.

Webb says the historical architecture and the timing of the project have made it one of the most rewarding design jobs she’s ever been involved with.

“During COVID (when businesses were shut down and there was so much turbulence), it felt so good to come in and do something positive,” says Webb. “It felt like the right time to have something to restore, something to bring life back into downtown when everyone was struggling. It was nice to have something like this that provided hope for the future and something … to be excited about.”

Christensen anticipates the renovation being complete within a month. Additional changes will likely be made once a new tenant moves in.

From left: Sheldon Christensen, Jenna Crapo and Ashley Webb | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
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