The Westbank

Published online: Nov 19, 2021 Articles, History, Lifestyle, Looking Back Jeff Carr
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To many Idaho Falls long-timers, no matter what the sign says, it’ll always be the Westbank. That’s the big red word that graced the top of the eight-story tower on River Parkway for two decades, long before it was the Quality Inn. Many, though, may be surprised to know that the Westbank name predated the iconic eight-story hotel by almost a half century. 

It is a solid name, after all—unique, dignified, and immediately helpful to those confused about which side of the river they’re on.

The first lodgings on this spot had a decidedly less sleek name: “Ferris Clark’s Cabin Camp.” The F-triple-C consisted of two huts built by Mr. Clark “by the tumbling waters” in 1928. Idaho Falls didn’t even have a west  side then, but he was young and industrious, with the confidence that comes from being a bigwig in a small town. A Clark was mayor of the city for 17 of the century’s first 40 years, spanning Ferris’s grandfather, father and uncle. The latter two even went on to serve as governor. 

Ferris, meanwhile, built his own little riverside empire. He changed the name to Westbank and opened 10 more cabins and a trailer court in the 1930s, then a 52-room brick motel in 1950, adding a restaurant, dining room, lounge and pool over the next three years. 

By the time he built the 110-foot tower in 1974, with 90 luxurious rooms shaped like slices of pie, he was in his 70s, and the longest continuous operator of a hotel in one spot in Idaho, and possibly the whole Northwest. He didn’t know for sure. 

He decided a cylinder would best take advantage of the 360-degree views—the river, the town, the jagged Tetons, and what, the buttes? Anyway, it worked. He built it and he sold it. 

In the time since, the Westbank has changed hands numerous times, and changed names even more, as national chains have bought, sold and merged. But even for an audacious gentleman—a Clark—when his tower went up in a booming town nearly 50 years ago, it would have been a long-shot to bet that in all that time, nobody would build a taller one. 

Research for this story was contributed by Carrie Anderson Athay, Museum of Idaho.

Click here to read more of the November issue of Idaho Falls Magazine.

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