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Hidden History: The white elephant in City Park

Hidden History: The white elephant in City Park

The band shell in City Park

The band shell in City Park is seen in this early Clarence E. Bisbee photo. The acoustics of the band shell were so poor that the municipal band had to play on the grass in front of the structure.

Editor’s note: This column first ran Oct. 4, 2012, in the Times-News and at

Folks in early Twin Falls loved a good celebration. And, for a proper celebration, the young town needed a good band with a place to perform.

The Twin Falls Municipal Band was an integral part of the community from the beginning and band members marched down Shoshone Street every chance they got. The band gathered at city baseball games and the bass drum sounded with every Twin Falls Cowboy home run.

By 1908, the need for a serious musical venue was apparent. Twin Falls had grown into a good-sized community, and the town began to talk about building a bandstand for concerts in the city park.

Plans for a new bandstand were drawn and local carpenters offered to donate their labor as long as the band agreed to purchase the needed materials.

But that’s when things went awry.

Builders inflated the cost of the materials for the bandstand until the total price tag rose to $1,800 by the time it was built in 1910. According to early newspaper accounts, the band “worked like the devil” to pay off the debt.

When finished, the bandstand looked good — a lovely example of early 20th Century architecture.

But as charming as it was, the bandstand itself was useless. The acoustics were terrible and the band ended up sitting in front of the bandstand when playing for a crowd.

For the next 25 years, the failed bandstand lived its life as a gazebo.

Finally, the town had enough of the white elephant in the park. The bandstand was torn down and Twin Falls architect Ernest H. Gates went to work creating a design for a new bandshell.

The city of Twin Falls paid for materials, and labor was provided by three dozen men paid through the Idaho Employment Relief Administration, the state equivalent of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

In the end, the new bandshell — which was described as a “permanent structure of beauty and usefulness” — cost the city only $700.

An estimated 800 tons of basalt rock from the Snake River rim and 10 tons of concrete was used to build the bandshell, which still stands in the city park today.

Mychel Matthews reports on rural issues for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and at If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at or call her at 208-735-3233.


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