Heritage Home Tour preview: Couple finds forever home in Boise’s North End

Jeannine and Bill Ryan’s home was built in 1936 and is Spanish Mission Revival in style. When the Ryans gave their home an update, they were careful to retain the home’s appropriate style.
Jeannine and Bill Ryan’s home was built in 1936 and is Spanish Mission Revival in style. When the Ryans gave their home an update, they were careful to retain the home’s appropriate style.

The North End is a popular place to live for good reason.

When you’re sitting in Jeannine and Bill Ryan’s house, it almost feels like you’re at your grandmother’s house. You look out the arched windows and get that nostalgic sense of Neighborhood with a capital “N” that is so hard to find anymore.

This year's Heritage Homes Tour focuses on the Elm Grove Park neighborhood in Boise's North End. The Oct. 2 tour benefits Preservation Idaho. Paula Benson of Preservation Idaho and Robin Bosworth, whose charming North End bungalow is featured on t

But finding a house in the North End can be challenging. In many cases, you have to be in the right place on the right day. Or sometimes the house has to find you.

“Down at the corner this past year, there was a young couple with twins, and one day they were gone and a new couple with young kids was in the house,” Bill said. “There had never been a ‘For Sale’ sign or anything on it. People were just making contact without it ever passing through (a Realtor’s) hands.”

That’s much the same way the Ryans found their historic home.

“We bought this house from some people we met at our daughter’s Montessori, and we bought it on a handshake,” Jeannine said.

But it was all set in motion more than 20 years ago when they left Steamboat Springs, Colo. They had decided Boise would be their next home.

“We just drove right to the North End,” Jeannine said.

You can see the Ryan home on the Oct. 2 Heritage Home Tour. This year’s tour focuses on the Elm Grove Park neighborhood. See the related stories for information or visit for tour details and ticket information. That information should be up on the group’s website soon.

Their first home was a rental — only about a half dozen blocks away from where they are today. They were there for six years. When they decided to buy, they did a lot of legwork first.

“We looked a lot in other places,” Jeannine said. “We walk a lot, and we walked up and down the streets and dreamed of houses. We always loved this house, and we found out these people were moving. They wanted out, and we wanted in.”

Married for 30 years, the Ryans raised three kids in this house. Bill manages ServiceMaster Restore in Boise, and Jeannine is a therapist at Children’s Therapy Place.

The house, now 80 years old, has seen a lot. Their oldest daughter, Sarah, 28, had the front bedroom growing up. She was allowed to fix it up as she wished, which she did — with zebra print carpeting and pink walls.

“It was a short-lived phase,” Sarah admitted.

When they moved in, they also had a kitchen right out of the ’60s, with a Frigidaire Flair stove. It was a unique appliance with a pullout cooktop and overhead ovens all atop a cabinet.

“It was the weirdest,” Sarah said. “Did we sell that?”

“No. But I still have the manual,” Bill said.

“It was cool,” Jeannine said. “Like the Jetsons. I think we put it in the junkyard or something.”

The 2010 remodel

“For years and years, we laid around trying to decide what the best way was of redesigning it so it would flow,” Bill said.

They did wan a bit more space. They also wanted to update the fixtures and work on the heating and air as well as do some rewiring and insulation. The house needed a kitchen update, too, and they added a basement home theater. The house was originally two bedrooms and one bathroom; now it is three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

“The design was always challenging, but it really flows a lot nicer,” Bill said.

The Ryans worked with Harrison Renovation Company on the remodeling project. Trent Howie, along with his Realtor wife, Anne, renovates historical homes. Howie took the architect’s plans the Ryans provided and modified just enough to use the space a bit differently.

“When my wife and I design, we try to eliminate hallway because they waste space, for one, and two, they’re not super traditional,” Howie said. “Some of the floor plans we do down here is what I call New Historical, because most everyone wants a walk-in closet and a walk-in shower. ...

“I remember with the Ryans, we tied in some new hardwood flooring, laced in with the old, laced all together so you couldn’t tell where we’d repaired it,” Howie said. “And we put this little dining nook in. There was a little spot in their house that was just a dark hole that they never got a chance to figure out how to use, and we opened that up to the kitchen and a set of windows on the south side of the house.”

What had been one small window and a dark space between the kitchen and living area was now a brightly lit space. The small window was moved to the laundry room, and the two new windows in that area had previously been in the back bedroom. Meanwhile, the master suite was enlarged and improved, too.

The most successful transition was the elimination of the hallway and the walling up of that hallway entrance in the living room. That also helped increase the size of the front bedroom.

I like that it’s stucco, and we really like the front windows.

Homeowner Bill Ryan

The backyard, though, is another story. It was one giant pile of rocks. A previous resident had brought in rocks — lots of rocks.

“It took me years to figure out how to redistribute those rocks,” Bill said. But he moved the rocks around and it is now a private, pleasant place to relax.

“There’s always shade, but no matter what time of day it is, there’s a sunny part,” Sarah said.

We’ve always been North Enders.

Homeowner Bill Ryan

They love the history of the neighborhood, and they love the ability to walk or bike to Hyde Park, Camel’s Back Park or the grocery store. “We don’t venture far from the North End,” Bill said.

But when they do venture out, they make their home available for others on Airbnb.

“It’s a perfect place to vacation in because it’s close to everything, and it’s not fancy,” Jeannine said.

It’s a special place to call home. “We’ve been in this part of Boise since the day we moved here,” Bill said.

Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and print journalist who has been working in the Treasure Valley for more than 25 years.

The Ryan home

This home was built in 1936 during a building boom following the creation of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). That same year, George Bremer created the Bremer Construction Company and platted subdivisions in Jerome and Twin Falls counties. He also bought property in Boise in the Elm Grove neighborhood and on the Bench near Owyhee and Kootenai streets. Between 1936 and 1938, his company built more than 100 homes. In 1938, he left the construction business to become the national underwriting supervisor for the FHA.

The Ryan house was one of 11 homes the Bremer Construction Company built in the two-block area between Hazel and Bella streets and 21st and 23rd streets, offering buyers a choice of several plans. This one-story, gable-roof home has some features of the Spanish Revival style, including an arched door and windows, decorative vents and stucco siding. A similar plan was used for a home around the corner from this one.

Longtime Boise residents Ruth and Winston U. Countryman also lived in this home for many years.

Source: Preservation Idaho

Related stories from Idaho Statesman