150 Boise icons: Cyrus Jacobs/ Uberuaga House

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 25, 2013 

Did you know? About 1,000 people came to watch the 2012 excavation of the house’s old well. The items uncovered will be used in archeology lab courses at the University of Idaho. The community beyond Idaho also took note of the Boise dig. Archaeology Magazine included it in the “World Roundup” of significant digs.

STATESMAN STAFF

  • ARCHAEOLOGY DAY

    "Celebrating Boise 150: Investigating the Cyrus Jacobs/Uberuaga House," 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 1. Activities for children ages 4-12; reservations appreciated: 343-2671.

    Guided tours for adults from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., museum gallery open until 3 p.m. Researchers will discuss the archaeological dig at noon. All events are free.

Miners discovered gold in the Idaho City area in 1862. Pioneers platted the city of Boise in 1863. Cyrus and Mary Jacobs built their brick house on Grove Street (then called Market Street) in 1864.

The house anchors the Basque Block. It's filled with historic objects and interpretive displays, and is open to visitors. It is the oldest brick dwelling in the city.

Cyrus Jacobs was a well-to-do merchant - the ultimate entrepreneur - who also served a term as mayor of Boise. He operated a variety of businesses. They included a flour mill, a soap factory, a meatpacking house and a distillery - the source of Jacobs' Best Rye Whiskey. He lived in his brick house for 40 years.

In 1910, after the deaths of Cyrus and Mary, a series of Basque families lived in the house and began offering lodging for sheepherders. During this era, Boise's wealthiest families were leaving areas like Grove Street and the nearby Central Addition neighborhood. They were relocating to newly fashionable spots like Warm Springs Avenue.

The Uberuaga family began renting the home and operating their own boarding house in 1917. They bought the house in 1928 from the Jacobs' heirs and ran their business until 1969.

The house is one of the few remaining historic Basque boarding houses in the West. It has been part of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center since 1985.

The cultural center has overseen extensive renovations of the house, including reproducing wall papers from the late 1800s. Restorers installed brewery-style light fixtures identical to those that hung in the house in the 1920s. Masons rebuilt three of five historic chimneys using old photos as their guides. Historic furniture fills the old house, including a dining room table built by boarders.

The historic house made the news in summer 2012 when University of Idaho archeologists unearthed the contents of a newly discovered well. Some of the items recovered, which researchers believe date to the Jacobs family era, include a porcelain doll head; sarsaparilla bottles stamped with their place of origin: Lowell, Mass.; and an empty jar that once held "Oriental Tooth Paste," advertised as "England's Favorite Dentifrice," guaranteed to "impart a delicate fragrance to the breath."

607 Grove St.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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