Boise & Garden City

Salvation likely for four of five historic Central Addition homes

A woman is trying to buy a lot on Jefferson Street where she would move the smallest of five historic houses on 5th Street in Boise's Central Addition neighborhood, said Dan Everhart, an architectural historian with Preservation Idaho.

Another proposal has come in to disassemble the Beck House on the west side of 5th Street and reassemble it in a historical setting a few hours away in Atlanta, Idaho.

Meanwhile, plans are still intact to move the Fowler and Jones houses, located between the Beck House and Myrtle Street, to vacant lots in Boise.

If all that falls into place, four of the five historic homes still standing on 5th Street between Myrtle and Broad streets will be saved. The fifth one, the Stewart House on the northeast corner of Myrtle and 5th, is just too big and has been altered too much to attract much attention from would-be preservers, Everhart said. It is likely to be dismantled, and its materials reused in the refurbishing of the other four or some other project.

"This is possibly the best outcome that these houses could've seen," he said.

Historic preservationists have known for years that the end would come for the five old houses on 5th Street between Myrtle and Broad. Worries about their future intensified as developers started sniffing around Central Addition, a once-prominent neighborhood between Capitol Boulevard, Broadway Avenue, Myrtle and Front streets. People interested in moving the houses came and went without making serious proposals. A year-and-a-half ago, after a fire a block to the east, two historic buildings were destroyed.

In the fall, Los Angeles-based developer LocalConstruct, fresh off a renovation of Downtown Boise’s historic Owyhee Hotel, announced plans to build an apartment complex on 5th Street. Suddenly, the possibility of losing the Fowler, Jones, Wood and Beck houses was no longer a far-off possibility. The good side of that sword was that it lit a fire under people who had thought, maybe, about someday saving the houses.

The potentially good news about saving four of them could give more of a party atmosphere to Preservation Idaho's event this weekend to commemorate the houses.

The event starts at 11 a.m. Saturday and is scheduled to end around 4 p.m. Everhart said Preservation Idaho has asked to close the section of 5th Street between Myrtle and Broad and expects to receive permission soon.

Boise Brewing, located just around the corner on Broad Street, plans to host a beer garden in the parking lot on the corner of 5th and Broad, chief brewing officer Collin Rudeen said.

There'll be live music, Everhart said, and food trucks belonging to vendors such as Boise Fry Co. and Free Range Pizza. Businesses and nonprofit groups in the neighborhood will have tables and tents.

For the price of $5, people who attend will be allowed to tour all five historic houses. Mementos, maps, pictures and additional history on the houses and Central Addition neighborhood will be on display in the houses.

"So that people can kind of understand the bigger picture of Central Addition and what it once was," Everhart said.

Saturday's event will also include a silent auction for donated original art featuring Central Addition themes and architectural details salvaged from houses that recently burned on 4th Street. Preservation Idaho plans to use the money to invest in some way in the neighborhood, Everhart said.