Boises history unfolds within its historic homes. The way those homes were designed can offer a glimpse into how people lived in the early 1900s. Kitchens were smaller, because they were not the central gathering place they are in todays homes. Closets were smaller because wardrobes were smaller. Bathrooms were not the spa-like retreats common in todays designs. Homeowners strike a delicate balance when updating a historic home: They strive to maintain the homes place in history while making it more suitable for todays style of living.
The annual Heritage Homes Tour tells the story of that delicate balance as homeowners open their doors to share their journeys with the community. This years tour focuses on the East End and will feature up to eight homes. Here are two of their stories.
DIY ON BANNOCK STREET
Lesa Stark and Bill Fitzgerald were on their first date when they drove down Bannock Street in East Boise and Stark made a statement that would end up becoming a bit of a prophecy: See this house? Im going to buy it one day.
Stark and Fitzgerald will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in October. They moved into Starks dream house in 1995. Now they joke that they cant stop working on the historic bungalow, which was built in 1907.
The inviting, oversized front porch gave the house great curb appeal, Stark explained. The home reminded Fitzgerald of the houses on the East Coast, where he was raised. The couple first ended up purchasing a home located directly behind the Bannock house, and over time they became friends with their neighbor. When the woman decided it was time to downsize, she asked Stark and Fitzgerald if they would like to buy her home.
And so it began. Updates were needed throughout the house (the previous owner had lived there from 1951 to 1995), so Stark and Fitzgerald set off to slowly chip away at their to-do list, tackling most of the work themselves.
They have taken the concept of rearranging to a whole new level. Instead of moving furniture, Stark and Fitzgerald move walls, doorways, entire bathrooms and built-ins.
I like problem-solving, Stark says.
Fitzgerald has worked as a butcher for 42 years and never had training in construction. Stark attended Washington State University and graduated with a degree in landscape architecture (see the yard photos for a glimpse into her talents). Together, they are a force of patience, creativity, curiosity and determination.
Their formula? When in doubt, ask an expert. Or ask a relative for help (Starks father helped with many projects). Or do some research. Or just wing it.
When they discovered the back porch had a dangerous downward slope, Fitzgerald used a car jack to raise the old floor while he built up the flooring and made it level.
They remodeled the tiny kitchen and expanded the space by removing a bathroom that was located in one corner and placing it in the opposite corner, borrowing space from another downstairs room where they also added a wall to form two separate rooms. Fitzgerald did the room swap himself, even moving the original door frame and placing it in the new bathroom location. While one wall was added, another was removed in order to open up the kitchen and create more walk-through space.
Bill called me at work one day and said, Maybe we should take down that wall in the kitchen, Stark recalled. I said OK. Then he said, I just did it.
More swapping was done upstairs, where they converted a linen closet into a bathroom and moved the original closet doors into the hallway to create a built-in storage area.
The wooden window frame was removed when the duo stripped off old paint and repainted it, then they returned the frame to its original location once the work was finished.
A built-in dresser was relocated to the hallway in order to create enough space for a walk-in closet in the master.
They converted an attic space into a fourth bedroom. When they began the project, the attic was loaded with cobwebs, spiders and dust. The original floorboards had never been nailed down. They were just flopping around, Fitzgerald said.
For the past few years, Fitzgerald has been carefully repainting the exterior of the house, working on 4-foot sections at a time. He strips the paint from the clapboard, primes the wood and then repaints. Then he moves on to the next section. Estimates from professional painters were simply too high, so they decided to do the job themselves and save more complicated work for the professionals (the foundation had to be rebuilt recently).
Although Stark and Fitzgerald spend most of their spare time working on their house, they dont envy people who have their own homes built.
I think of all the choices you have to make in order to build a new house. This is simpler, I think, Stark says. The choices have already been made.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY UPDATES ON WALNUT STREET
A framed photo hanging in a hallway shows the construction of a bungalow on Walnut Street that now belongs to Anne Orzepowski and Rob Tiedemann. It was built in 1919 and has only had three owners during that time.
One of the attractive things about this home was all the woodwork, Tiedemann says. It had never been painted over.
The other great thing is the geothermal heat, Orzepowski adds.
Orzepowski and Tiedemann purchased the home in 1990 and knew right away they would need to make some adjustments. Over the years there have been changes in flooring, a kitchen remodel, bedroom and bathroom remodels, and even the relocation of a staircase.
Help was easy to find: Orzepowskis brother, Wally, is a remodeler and has done all the work himself. When the family moved into the home, the couples three children were young. A metal, spiral staircase leading downstairs seemed hazardous for small children, so one of the first projects was to construct a traditional staircase. Soon it was time to transform the galley kitchen into a more open space that would be roomy enough for a family of five.
Wally transformed the kitchen area to make it a living space where the family could gather. He removed a bathroom that was adjacent to the kitchen and opened up the space to make it a television/sitting room with an open view of the kitchen. Along the way he addressed some surprise hurdles, such as walls that werent plumb and an electrical system that wasnt up to code.
Wally is a great problem solver, Orzepowski says.
On the homes second floor the family has watched their skilled remodeler find creative solutions to some of the common challenges found in owning an older home. He added a skylight in the upstairs hallway to bring more light into the upper level. He used a crawl space to gain the space needed to add a bedroom and remodeled the bathroom to make it larger and have enough room for a laundry area.
A wood deck located off the kitchen is one of the familys favorite areas. Wally built the deck and then had an idea to add an overhead screen to filter out hot summer sun. He got the idea for the screen after seeing a similar system at the outdoor skating rink in Sun Valley, Tiedemann says. Before the deck was built, there was a concrete patio that was accessed by walking down steps from the kitchen door.
In the summer, this is like an extension of the kitchen, Tiedemann says.
Reminders of the past are still hard to ignore despite the modern upgrades. In addition to the photo of the home under construction, the original floor plans have also stayed with the home over the years. Merging the past and the present took more than a decade, but the timeline was realistic for the family. Changes happened as they were needed and when they were possible; it is advice Tiedemann and Orzepowski say other homeowners should consider when thinking about home improvement work.
Things happened a little at a time, Tiedemann says. It wasnt like the remodeling shows, where everything happens in a few days.
Chereen Langrill, a graduate of Boise State University, has been a journalist in Idaho for more than 15 years. A freelance writer, she enjoys covering all aspects of Idaho and its friendly Idahoans. Chereen loves walking in the Foothills with her dogs, Lulu and Murphy, and her husband, Idaho Statesman sports reporter Chris Langrill.