Our View: Knudsen House was worth effort to save it

October 22, 2013 

Though the historic Knudsen House at 603 W. Franklin must be moved to a new location a few blocks down the street in order to continue to exist, we much prefer this outcome to the Dec. 31 date with a wrecking ball that loomed.

But even this decision was a difficult one for the Boise City Council, because making arrangements for the former home of Morris Hans "M.H." Knudsen to live on involves demolishing a property in a historic district at 812 W. Franklin.

It was a wrenching decision that resulted in a 5-1 vote to approve the move, especially after the Historic Preservation Commission of the city had denied the demolition of the 812 property. But this was necessary to provide a new footprint for the Dutch Colonial Revival Knudsen structure that strikes such an imposing pose at 6th and Franklin. Elaine Clegg was the lone "no" vote on the council following a lengthy deliberation that council president Maryanne Jordan said was one of the most unusual set of circumstances involving historic properties she has ever been involved in.

"I wouldn't look forward to doing it again, but a call had to be made," Jordan said.

The bottom line is that one old home in a legacy neighborhood is being sacrificed to make way to preserve another one built in 1905 by Knudsen, the home's first occupant and the co-founder of the famous Boise-based Morrison Knudsen civil engineering firm.

To drive by both properties is the best way to understand the choice. The more modest 812 property, owned by Boise office property manager Burritt Boynton, was being considering for a rehab project. When Boynton heard about the availability of the Knudsen House — which was advertised by its owner, the state of Idaho — he began to consider getting a permit to demolish 812 and move the Knudsen property there. The state had promised to chip in $15,000 to defray the estimated $80,000 moving costs of the two-story Knudsen home, which has many interior and exterior charms, including a sandstone foundation that reaches up to the second floor near the back.

Boynton needed a permit from the city to demolish 812. The city gave permission for that, pending Boynton securing appropriate permits to move the Knudsen House. It is hoped that the Knudsen structure could be sited by mid-December. It will resume its most recent use as an office complex — with a very classy pedigree.

Though the Knudsen House won't be a corner property in its new location, we hope that handsome wrought-iron fence and a shiny historical placard will grace its front some day. It is a jewel saved, but at no small cost.

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