Boise's historic Knudsen House completes move

The historic Boise building still needs a new foundation before it can be rented as office space.

zkyle@idahostatesman.comJanuary 28, 2014 

  • Several other Boise buildings sit in places other than where they were built. Some of the best known include:

    - The Pierce-Borah House: Boise entrepreneur Walter E. Pierce built the house in 1897. He sold it in 1898 to William Borah, who became a prominent senator. The house was moved in 1959 to make way for the Boise High athletic field. The new owner moved it to Branstetter Street in Garden City.

    - Christ Chapel: The little white church that sits on Broadway Avenue near Bronco Stadium began its life at the corner of 7th and Bannock streets in 1866 as one of the earliest Episcopal churches in the region. After moving to 15th and Ridenbaugh in 1902, it finally moved onto the Boise State campus in the 1960s.

    - The Bishops' House: The Episcopal Church built the house at Idaho and 2nd streets in 1889 as a rectory for clergy. The house was in danger of being torn down in 1975. A group, Friends of the Bishops' House, raised the money to move it down Warm Springs Avenue to its current site at the Old Pen.

    - Ahavath Beth Israel Synagogue: Pioneers built the Moorish-style synagogue in 1895 at 11th and State streets. Crews moved the 60-ton building from Downtown to its current site on Latah Street on the Boise Bench in 2003.

    Anna Webb, The Idaho Statesman

In the end, the block-and-a-half move down West Franklin Street took a matter of hours.

But the effort to relocate the historic home of one of Boise’s titans of industry — and to save it from demolition — required five months for Burr Boynton to make the winning bid on the state-owned house, acquire a destination lot, win an appeal with the Boise City Council and align the other parts needed to move a 200,000-pound, century-old structure.

But there the 1905 Dutch Colonial Revival-style home was on Monday, raised to head-level on a 64-wheel hydraulic cradle, rolling down Franklin behind a truck.

“Today is the day,” Boynton said. “We’ve been working on this since early August. It’s been a long haul.”

The 2,165 square-foot building was home to Morris Hans Knudsen from 1912 until his death in 1943. Knudsen co-founded the famous Boise construction and civil engineering firm Morrison Knudsen Co.

Knudsen, whose company routinely moved heavy materials while completing projects such as Hoover Dam and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, might have enjoyed watching Monday’s moving job by Nampa-based Western States Movers. In addition to the truck hauling the house, two trucks pulling thick cables attached to the house helped pivot the building out of its old home at 603 W. Franklin and on to its new home at 812.

A tree-cutting crew felled branches obstructing the path of the house. An Idaho Power team removed communication wires from the telephone poles and laid them, covered, on 8th Street for the truck to drive over. Idaho Power workers in a boom truck at the same intersection lifted power lines to create space for the house to roll under.

Kenny Pfeifer, owner of the moving company, paced beside the house during its slow, short movements and frequent stops. At one point, Pfeifer and an employee pulled aside a handicapped parking sign to ensure that the house cleared the sign as Pfeiffer’s daughter, Tami Larrondo, steered the house past.

The move went smoothly. Pfeifer said the trickiest part was securing each sandstone block in the bottom row of the home’s footing. Stones on the bottom row that didn’t rest on the huge metal beams of the cradle were secured with metal strapping.

The Knudsen House is small compared with most of the company’s moving projects, Pfeifer said.

“This is just another day,” he said. “It’s even daylight (unlike most moves). I can see where I’m going.”

Dozens toughed out temperatures in the 20s to snap photos and videos on their cellphones. Two of the bystanders, Jerry and Karen Choat, owned the Knudsen House and operated their graphic design firm, Omni Studio, there from 1984 until 2012.

Karen Choat said they renovated the inside of the house three times over the years and wouldn’t have moved out if not for Idaho’s plan to build the parking garage now under construction on the home’s original block. The state’s plans eventually call for expanding construction to the two lots not already covered by the garage, including the Knudsen House’s former perch.

Jerry Choat said he felt tugged in opposing directions as he watched the building inch down the street.

“I’m glad it’s being preserved, but it’s sad that it’s being moved,” he said. “It belongs on that corner.”

Still in its cradle, the house rested at the end of the day on its new lot, Boynton said. The movers were scheduled to take the wheels off the house Tuesday, enabling Boynton to start a three-week project to build the new foundation.

“To my untrained eye, the move went as quick and as smooth as I could have hoped,” he said. “I’m much warmer now, and also relieved. But I’m still cold.”

Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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