Idaho History

Richard Adelmann’s love affair with Boise started quickly, and is still evident today

The Adelmann house on State Street before it was moved to Pioneer Village in Julia Davis Park.
The Adelmann house on State Street before it was moved to Pioneer Village in Julia Davis Park.

From the time he arrived in Boise from New York City in 1872 with Mr. and Mrs. William H. Jaumann, an uncle and aunt, Richard C. Adelmann found much about the town to his liking. First of all, there was a German-speaking community of nearly a hundred people with whom communication was easy.

Prominent Germans in Boise City in the 1870s included brewer John Lemp, painter Jacob Welch, shoemaker Lewis Steidel, gunsmith Lewis Hyed, furniture dealer Moses Moreitz, saloon keeper John Krall and boot maker Gorge Bayhouse, to name a few. There were Germans in just about every other occupation: bakers, barbers, bar tenders, blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, dry goods merchants, lumber dealers, saddlers, stone masons and tailors, all of which contributed to the city’s lively economy.

It took less capital to get started in saloon keeping than in just any other business, and that’s what Adelmann tried first and stayed with longest. As a Civil War veteran who had been wounded in battle, he had many war stories to share with his customers, some of whom were also veterans, from the South as well as the North.

On July 11, 1875, the Idaho Statesman reported: “Married, in this city, by W.W. Glidden, Probate Judge, at the residence of the bride’s parents, Mr. Richard C. Adelmann and Miss Emma B. Ostner.” Emma, 19, was the daughter of noted pioneer sculptor Charles Ostner, creator of the equestrian statue of George Washington in the Idaho State Capitol.

The 1880 U.S. Census tells us that Richard C. Adelmann and Emma were divorced, but had two infant sons. Emma and the younger boy, Carl, 2, were living with her parents, the Ostners. Richard and the older son, Alfred, 3, were living at 221 West Jefferson with his father John P. Adelmann, 64, a retired baker, and two boarders. Curiously, Richard is listed as “shoemaker,” for the first and only time. He will often be listed thereafter as “miner,” and government records still refer to the “Adelmann Group” of mines in the Black Hornet District in the hills west of Lucky Peak Dam.

On Jan. 12, 1882, Richard married Julia Ostner, Emma’s sister. She would bear him three sons, William A., John P. and Warren B. Adelmann. Elizabeth Adelmann, daughter of Carl, also contributed much family history in a series of taped interview by members of the Idaho Historical Auxiliary as part of their oral history program.

When Julia Ostner Adelmann died in April 1955, her three sons were still living, as were Emma’s two sons, listed in the obituary as Julia’s stepsons.

In my role as director of the Idaho State Historical Society, I was pleased to get to know elderly Bill Adelmann. He told me that he had worked at the U.S. Assay Office until he had been “let go” in April 1904. The Statesman wrote at the time: “Mr. Adelman, who is a Boise boy and a staunch Republican, has always been regarded as a highly satisfactory employee, and the supposition is that he will be removed for no other reason than to make way for one of Assayer Wooley’s friends.”

The Adelmann family home on West Jefferson for two generations was scheduled for demolition, when I determined to have it moved to the Pioneer Village next to the state museum. There, after considerable restoration, it joined two log cabins, a homestead dwelling and the adobe Thomas E. Logan house.

The towered Adelmann Building, still standing at the corner of 7th and Idaho Streets, was German-born Richard C. Adelmann’s major contribution to Boise’s architecture. On New Year’s Day 1903, the Statesman said it was “one of the neatest, most compact and convenient of the new buildings of the year.”

The architects were Campbell & Wayland. Scottish-born Walter S. Campbell designed many of Boise’s landmark buildings, including the Idanha Hotel.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email