On January 22, 1906 the Swedish Lutheran Church of the Augustana Synod in was organized under the leadership of the Rev. Charles E. Bengston of Idaho Falls. According to church records, the original building, at First and Bannock streets, had 19 charter members. Because they were Scandinavians, Swedish became the first language spoken from the pulpit.
A site for the new church building was purchased for $3,500.00 Ground was broken at Seventh and Fort Streets on May 26, 1908. The church was completed during the pastorate of the Rev. C.C. Olsson and was dedicated September 22, 1915.
On October 1, 1918, the congregation decided to hold all services in the English language, opening the doors to all Lutherans in . Another tie to its Swedish heritage was severed in 1919 when the church name was changed to Boise Evangelical Lutheran Church.
By the late 1950's it was decided to name the original building, which had been expanded to include a more modern structure, Augustana Chapel in recognition of its first synodical affiliation. The chapel continues to be used for weekly communion services, occasional weddings and special services.
Augustana Chapel is a sandstone and shingle structure in the Gothic style. Its Gothic features include a cruciform plan with off-center tower, Gothic windows and portal. It is distinguished by its compactness, measuring only 38'x64', its extremely shallow transepts, its steeple ornamentation, lack of buttresses, and its use of local sandstone for the basement and first floors.
Charles F. Hummel I, the designer, was significant for the large number of other important buildings in Idaho in which he was architect, including the state capitol, St. John's Catholic Cathedral (in Romanesque revival) and the University of Idaho administration building. The Statesman in January 1909, probably quoting the architects, described the church as being "in the true ecclesiastical Gothic style of architecture." The Gothic revival aspect of the building, even more than its great charm, makes it important in the overall work of Tourtellotte and Hummel.
The church faces north and has a gabled roof. Its tower on the northeast corner serves as a belfry. The tower's sandstone first story has a Gothic, stained glass lancet window on each of its exposed faces, and is topped by a shallow shingle coping.
The shingled second story is dominated by a large Gothic ventilator on each side, each of which is accentuated by a narrow capping gable. This second level is crowned with four finials at the corners, which are decorated with sheet iron crockets and terminate with a three-dimensional Latin cross. The tower itself culminates in a spire, containing a gabled Gothic dormer ventilator on each side. Each of these dormers is also capped by a three-dimensional cross.
Front steps lead to a slightly recessed Gothic portal bounded by the tower, and a large stained glass Gothic window. A stone gable accentuates the doorway and is capped by a Calvary cross. This cross is in front of a "Palladian" Gothic window in the second story. A narrow shingle coping again separates the first and second stories, and maintains the continuity of the north side by integrating the tower with the rest of the facade. The gable supports a small Latin cross.
The east and west sides of the church are dominated by shallow gabled transepts with large stained glass windows. The east differs from the west due to the tower and a side exit towards the rear.
Though some alterations have been made to the interior such as modern heating ducts and modern lighting fixtures, the church remains relatively unchanged since its dedication. Augustana Chapel is architecturally significant in as one of only two Gothic revival churches of its era still standing. It is the one of the two which employs the distinctive local rusticated sandstone.
The chapel is listed on the National Register of Historical Buildings.