Our View, Knudsen House: Landmark still has tales to tell

June 11, 2013 

STATESMAN FILE PHOTO

The thing about history is this: it is helpless. If people don't preserve it, record it or tell it, it can quickly evaporate like the morning dew.

Or, in the case of the historic two-story, 2,165-square-foot Knudsen home at 603 W. Franklin St., in Downtown Boise, history can succumb to a parking garage/surface parking area for state workers.

If and when that happens and this stylish 1905 home leaves the annals of Boise ironically during its sesquicentennial, we can think positive and temporary thoughts. An estimated 2,400 government employees work in the vicinity with only about 1,200 parking spaces. This will add 600 places to park.

The parking garage might even have pleased Morris Hans "M.H." Knudsen, the home's first occupant and co-founder of the famous Boise civil engineering and construction firm Morrison-Knudsen Co.

We hope for a different historic ending. We ask that everyone from Gov. Butch Otter down to the statewide leasing managers pause and promise one thing - that this wonderful example of Dutch Colonial Revival architecture can somehow be preserved.

Yes, it is costly to disassemble and relocate a building of this girth, and there is risk to the structure itself. But we wonder if anyone in the state can measure the cost of its disappearance from the landscape of the city's history.

Worst-case scenario would be if the building were sold like a junk car for its parts - the art, science and romantic notion of the time scattered to salvage sales.

State officials say that is not the goal. To their credit, they are willing to pony up $15,000 to assist a relocation. That is a nice down payment, but certainly not the total bill.

We wonder whether the state - which leases space around the area to conduct its business - couldn't find a way to put an historic home like Knudsen on a path to a new purpose.

The place has good bones and certainly fits in with its surroundings. The parking project, at worst, might have to give up a dozen or two dozen spaces.

And we ask: What's the big hurry? A June deadline became a July deadline. Why can't that corner be carved out of the project - especially if it can be figured into the surface parking rather than the garage portion of the project - until there is a resolution?

On Monday the beautiful blue exterior and sandstone foundation that reaches up to the second floor was surrounded by construction equipment, state workers managing its, ah, final arrangements. A few pie-eyed bidders imagining its relocation and occupation as their starter home or conversation-piece crib were touring an "open house."

Officers of the Preservation Idaho organization were hard at work seeking funding and support and formulating plans to keep Knudsen house right where it is.

We hope they are successful and the Knudsen home can remain to speak from the past to generations to come.

Our View is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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