The property at the corner of Park Boulevard and Broadway Avenue in Boise has changed hands over the years, and while new arrivals to town might not know its significance, locals are well aware of the disproportionate role it has played in world history over the past century.
On August 1, the property will get its third name, becoming St. Luke’s Plaza.
Reminders of the 80-year legacy of construction giant Morrison-Knudsen Co. live on through features small and large at the four-building, 24-acre complex.
Morris Knudsen and Harry Morrison started their joint venture after working together on a crew. Their first major construction project was the Three Mile Falls Diversion Dam in Oregon. For several years, MK Co. built irrigation canals, logging roads and railways.
In the early 1930s, Morrison-Knudsen Co. struck big, contracting a joint venture to build the Hoover Dam. Between 1930 and 1940, the company was a part of the construction of 20 major dams across the world.
The company had well-established ties to government contracting and was commissioned to build airfields, military facilities and post-war reconstruction projects during and after World War II.
A 1954 Time magazine article called Harry Morrison “the man who has done more than anyone else to change the face of the earth.”
The company diversified in the 1970s, working in engineering, construction management, mining, real estate, manufacturing and environmental sectors.
They built the launch pads from which the Apollo and Saturn V rockets launched and the building where the rockets were assembled; participated in mining projects throughout the United States and South America; and dabbled in transit car construction.
After years of building across the globe, Morrison-Knudsen took on a personal project.
In the early 1970s, MK Co. finished Plaza 1, its headquarters, on property that had first served as a horse-boarding facility. Installations of company equipment still can be found on campus, along with descriptive placards.
After the company was acquired by the Washington Group in 1996, the campus was renamed for the new owner.
A new legacy is born
In 2018, St. Luke’s purchased Washington Group Plaza from office real estate company City Office REIT. The property, now St. Luke’s Plaza, houses many of the organization’s support teams. The monument sign at the entrance on Park Boulevard will be replaced with a St. Luke’s Plaza sign in front of the landmark fountain.
“It is exciting for me to see the great legacy of this campus, starting in 1970 when MK erected Plaza 1, continue now in 2019 as we formalize St. Luke’s Plaza,” said St. Luke’s Associate Vice President of Operations Mary Cronin, who was involved with the purchase of the campus and still oversees overall space planning.
“MK, and Harry W. Morrison’s vision, shaped much of the foundation of Boise. As a locally operated heath system, St. Luke’s carries that spirit forward.”
Alexis Bennett is a consultant for St. Luke's Center For Community Health.