Boise & Garden City

Simplot mansion being demolished (Update: with pictures)

Demolition on the Simplot Mansion began Monday.
Demolition on the Simplot Mansion began Monday.

Work began Monday to remove J.R. Simplot’s mansion from a hill west of Bogus Basin Road, said Ken Dey, spokesman for the Simplot family.

The giant American flag atop the hill, recently removed, will be replaced once the project is done, Dey said.

The Simplot family donated easily removed items, such as appliances, light fixtures and furniture, to the Idaho Youth Ranch, Dey said.

“We left it up to the contractor doing the demolition to make decisions on salvaging other items that could be removed in the demolition without too much difficulty and reused,” he said in an email.

The contractor, whose name Dey would not disclose, owns any salvaged materials, such as pipes and timber.

The mansion has been vacant for more than 10 years. The family donated it to the state in 2004 with the purpose of it being a governor’s residence. But the state never used the property and, after paying to maintain the house and grounds for many years, returned ownership of both to the Simplot family in 2013.

The family wanted to hold on to the land and keep flying the flag, but didn’t want to maintain the house, Dey said.

“There’s no use for the house that anyone could find,” he said. “None of the family members felt comfortable moving into J.R.’s house, and by selling they would have lost control of the land, so it was agreed that, rather than continuing to maintain the vacant home, taking it down was the best option.”

The family might someday use the property for a new purpose, but has no plans right now, Dey said.

Simplot flag: a Boise icon

When the city of Boise celebrated its 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial in 2013, the Idaho Statesman published Anna Webb’s book, “150 Boise Icons.”

The Simplot flag, one of the most recognizable objects in the city, was among those icons. Here’s what we wrote in 2013.

Flag on Simplot Hill

Potato magnate J.R. Simplot donated his massive house in the Boise Highlands to the state of Idaho in 2005 for use as a gubernatorial residence. His one stipulation: that the equally massive U.S. flag continue to wave above the house.

True to their word, state officials flew the Simplot flag, even while they were deciding to give the house back to the family because of expenses.

“It’s always a picture people want to take, standing under the flag. You can see the flag from anywhere in the Valley,” said Jennifer Pike of the Department of Administration.

At 30 feet by 50 feet, the flag is among the largest — if it’s not the largest — flags in the state. If it weren’t flying, the flag would fill a 50-gallon drum, Pike said.

As the story goes, after Simplot built the house in 1979, neighbors complained about the sound of the flag flapping in the wind. Some said it sounded like a gunshot.

The billionaire obliged by getting a taller flag pole. It stretches some 200 feet into the air. The height decreased the flapping volume.

The flag has flown at half-staff following the deaths of military personnel in combat, the death of Joe Albertson in 1993, and any other time the president or the governor made a proclamation that flags should be lowered.

The Simplot flag requires monthly repairs.

“The wind whips it up there pretty good,” said Pike.

The state cycles through three or four flags each year, she added. Each new flag costs around $1,800.