Southern Idaho Architecture: The impact of Ernest Gates on Twin Falls history

Architect Ernest Gates created some of the most iconic Twin Falls locations.
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 2:57 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —What does Saint Edwards Catholic Church, the First Baptist Church, Milner’s Gate, and the Bandshell all have in common? Ernest Gates.

The architect Ernest Gates, left a lasting impression on the community of Twin Falls, and Idaho as a whole, by not only designing these buildings, but also by serving as President FDR’s Chief Federal Housing Underwriter - starting the Idaho Section of the Institute of Architects, and serving as the groups first president.

Gates’ first project in Twin Falls was the Saint Edwards Catholic Church finished in 1921, a building that is so iconic in its design that the Idaho National Registry of Historic Places.

“Saint Edwards Catholic Church is one of the best examples of the Renaissance revival style in the state and is distinguished by its twin 75′ towers, terra cotta exterior and scagliola ornamented interior.”

the church was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1977.

Many of the places that Gates designed are now on the registry, including his home which still resides here in Twin Falls on 10th Avenue.

We spoke to local historian Dr. Samra Culum who told us why the house is so unique compared to those in the avenues.

“In the residential district the predominate house is a craftsman, and that is what that is, it’s a craftsman, but what makes his house unique is the style of it and it’s that stucco kinda like this Bandshell,” said Culum.

The Bandshell was his second project, replacing a gazebo that used to reside within city park.

A Works Project Administrations assignment during FDR’s presidential administrations, the project mixed over 800 tons of locally sourced lava rock and stucco a signature of Ernest Gates.

The First Baptist Church is one of the more recent additions to the National Registry of Historic Places being added in the year 2001,

A Gothic style church with an iconic single spire.

We spoke to Church Historian Dr. Jim Gentry who told us the conditions were right for more churches to be built.

“The pent-up demand as a result of the war and the Depression earlier and so with increased membership and increased financing that is what caused those churches to be built,” said Gentry.

No matter the conditions, Southern Idaho would look like a very different community without Ernest Gates spending as little time as he did here.