Terry and Pat Day lived in their red house with the distinctive square white columns at the top of Protest Hill for close to 60 years.
“It was a great place to be a kid,” said their son Alan Day, who lived there with his parents and his two older brothers, Michael and Bryan. His grandparents also had their own small house near the main house.
The Day property was home to “almost every kind of animal imaginable,” he said, including turkeys and a Canada goose that “kind of fell into our pasture, back when (Canada) geese were rare.” The goose had a harem of white geese to keep him company and lived at the Day place for a decade. The Days kept horses and had a tennis court.
Pat Day started a small arboretum, lining his property with trees and sharing seedlings with friends, Saint Alphonsus Hospital, the Boise Racquet & Swim Club and Bishop Kelly High School.
After Terry Day died in 2006, the family donated the house and grounds, some seven acres, to the city for a public park. It seemed like an obvious thing to do, Day said, “because it felt like it was a park already.”
Today, Terry Day Park, which opened in 2013, is a lush respite at the edge of the Boise Bench off Federal Way, a part of town a 2004 survey found lacking in green space. The park’s new tennis courts, its playground with mini-zip line, its pond, lawns and mature trees and even its somewhat secluded location tucked behind the Grandview Motel, lure visitors. But the family house, included with the family’s gift to the city in hopes it would become a community center, sits vacant behind a chain-link fence.
Day said that while the family wants the house to have a new life, it’s now up to the city.
“We’re confident Doug (Holloway, director of Boise Parks and Recreation) and Mayor (Dave) Bieter will do the right thing,” Day said. “We will wait. Finding the best use for the house is important to us.”
A house in limbo ... or maybe on the move?
The city, Holloway said, hasn’t made a decision about the house.
“With so many other projects in progress right now, we haven’t been able to devote a great deal of time to the process. I’m hopeful that will change in the very near future,” he said.
Current projects in the city’s capital improvement plan include renovation of the Main Library, the Housing First initiative, the restoration of the homesite of celebrated artist James Castle, work on neighborhood parks such as Sterling, Pine Grove and Franklin, as well as completion of the 55-acre Esther Simplot Park. Terry Day Park received $875,000 in development funds, said Holloway, but the house itself is not included in the capital improvement plan. If Parks and Recreation were to decide to use the space, the house would have to be brought up to code. It would also require ongoing maintenance, operating expenses, utilities and staffing, said Holloway.
Tearing the house down hasn’t been discussed at this time, he said. Moving the house has been.
“This option would be our preferred, and most likely, and we would be very willing to discuss this with potential partners,” Holloway said.
Moving historic houses has become somewhat of a trend in Boise. Recently, new owners moved four threatened houses from the former Central Addition neighborhood north of Julia Davis Park to new sites in the city and Atlanta.
Vacant and vulnerable
John Bertram, head of Preservation Idaho, the nonprofit organization that advocates for historic buildings in Idaho, is worried that even if demolition isn’t in the plan, the house is vulnerable to vandalism, salvagers, arson and other threats while it sits vacant.
“We’re concerned that the house is not moving up on the city’s to-do list,” Bertram said.
Preservation Idaho is working to raise public awareness of the house and is encouraging residents to write city leaders to share their ideas about its future. Bertram has also made presentations to the Vista and Depot Bench neighborhood groups to build support for the house.
Preservation Idaho members want the house to remain where it is, as a house’s original location is part of its historic identity. Members also hope the house becomes a vibrant park amenity, whether that is as a neighborhood center, artist work-live space, branch library, language center, day care center, nonprofit office or something no one has thought of yet.
Rural, but close to town
In addition to being the longtime home of a family with deep roots in the city, the house, built in 1908, is architecturally significant, said Barbara Perry Bauer, a historian with TAG Historical Research and Consulting in Boise. The Day house, she said, was once part of the Upland Park Addition. The early Bench development offered rangy homesites close enough to Downtown Boise to be convenient and accessible by streetcar on the Hillcrest Loop, but still far enough away to feel bucolic.
“The lots in the subdivisions were larger than what one found in the North End,” Perry Bauer said. “Some were as large as one acre and probably appealed to folks who wanted to be able to raise veggies, have cows and chickens. The property seemed to keep that rural feel all through the 20th century, which is another reason I think it is important.”
Historians believe James Flood Walker, who came to Boise from Los Angeles, designed the house. They credit Walker with introducing the Craftsman style to Boise — a style typified by front gables and columns, low-pitched roofs and multipaned windows. With the exception of a family room added to the Day house in the 1950s, the house remains in its original state with hardwood floors, historic windows and an airy floor plan.
Who were the Days?
Terry Day was born in Wales; Pat Day was born in Twin Falls. They met in Boise when both were working at Albertsons. They married in 1953, moved into the house soon after and raised their family there.
Both Days were involved with the life of the city and were members of many civic organizations. They were among the founding members of the Boise Racquet & Swim Club. Pat Day lived in the house for seven more years after the donation to the city. Day formed a close relationship with Parks and Recreation staffers during that time. Day, an avid New York Yankees fan and memorabilia collector, was able to attend the public dedication of the park shortly before taking a fall in his garden that led to his death at the age of 88.
The Manley’s connection
Boiseans of a certain age had the good fortune to dine at Manley’s, opened by W. Manley Morrow in the 1950s. The cafe, a classic greasy spoon on Federal Way just east of the Day property, is beloved as a lost Boise icon and legendary for the size of its portions. This meant that if you ordered a piece of pie, you would receive a quarter of a whole pie. With ice cream. If you ordered a slice of prime rib, it dangled over the edges of the plate.
“When Manley’s was there, we would be sent through the fence to get either 15- or 20-cent bags of fries,” said Alan Day. “If we got a roast beef dinner for my grandparents, it would last them a week.”
After Manley’s owner died, family members tried to keep the place going. They sold the cafe to two Manley’s waitresses. They closed the business in 1997. The Days bought Manley’s and cleared the property. It became part of the family’s gift to the city. The Days kept the cafe’s 1970s-era wooden sign. The sign will become the centerpiece of a historical kiosk in Terry Day Park that will stand near the old cafe site.
What do you think should happen to the Day House?
Preservation Idaho is asking the public to visit the park, see the house and share thoughts about its future with Boise city leaders. Visit the park/homesite: 1225 S. Federal Way, Boise.
Contacts for Boise City: mayor and city council, attn.: Amanda Brown, 150 N. Capitol Blvd. Boise, ID 83702 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Amanda Brown at 208-384-4422 or email@example.com.
Contacts for Preservation Idaho: Amy Pence-Brown, 208-409-8282 or amypencebrown.com or John Bertram, 208-336-1436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.