The house on Boise Avenue, partly hidden by tall hedges, has always had a bit of mystery about it.
Its like a jewel thats been forgotten in South Boise, said John Bertram, president of Preservation Idaho.
The Hopffgarten House, not far from Broadway, has new owners, John Van Lith, an account broker, and Meg White, a nursing student.
The historic house is notable for its grand columns, expansive porch, river rock columns and an unusual eyelid window on its facade.
The house has gone through expansions over the years. Its likely that some portion of the current house dates to 1898, said Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho. Other portions were added in 1905 and 1919.
Well-known signmaker and muralist Harry Hopffgarten (usually pronounced HOFF-garden) and his wife, Anna, were not the first owners of the house, but they lived there the longest, from 1915 until 1975.
Van Lith and White intend to use the house as office space for Van Lith. But additional purposes may be in the works as well. Bed-and-breakfast or guest quarters are among the possibilities. The house is zoned for limited office and residential use.
By the time all the restoration is done getting rid of outdated carpet, shoring up the sagging front porch, removing the less-than-attractive baseboard heating and uncovering Hopffgartens murals that purportedly remain, under the parlor wallpaper We may end up living here ourselves, said White.
A certificate near the front door confirms the houses listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. According to the application for the designation, the house is significant to Boises architectural heritage in that it is one of the last of the large, fine dwellings which once distinguished Boise Avenue in the village of South Boise.
RIVER ROCK AND WAVY GLASS
White has been charmed by the houses proportions and details high ceilings and two back-to-back fireplaces that warm the front parlor and smoking room.
In between her studies and caring for her young daughter, White has been doing architectural detective work to learn the houses history. Shes trying to identify the people pictured in a score of old, framed portraits left behind by previous residents.
Van Lith and White ended up owners almost by fluke. They had been looking for office space for Van Lith. They couldnt find anything they liked until they happened to pass the Hopffgarten House.
Wouldnt that be a fun office? said White. They took a look, and contacted the real estate agent just for kicks.
The house was beyond their budget, but they worked with the owner to get a good deal with enough money left for what they believe will be a three-year restoration project.
In the next couple of weeks theyll start removing carpet and incongruous bathroom fixtures.
Theres nothing so bad that we cant fix it, said White.
Their building inspector had good news, too. The house is solid.
He told us he often sees new houses with twice as many structural problems, said White. This house was built to last.
A tour reveals intact architectural elements likely to make the lovers of old houses swoon: original wood windows (with wood storm windows) and wavy glass panes; radiators and vents with sunburst designs; a tiny closet hidden under the staircase; massive pocket doors; a boiler room that resembles something from the Titanic; a master bedroom with a balcony; a little chute near the fireplace that sends ashes to the basement; remnants of two fish ponds; and original light fixtures.
White and Van Lith also plan to uncover the walls handpainted by Hopffgarten to resemble marble that they believe remain under the dining room wallpaper.
One missing piece of evidence: the original blueprints for the Wayland and Fennel expansion of 1919.
White is still hopeful theyll turn up.
Anna Webb: 377-6431