It was not until two decades after the platting of Boise in 1867 that the block between Fort and Hays Streets and Eleventh and Twelfth was purchased for development. Part of the original town site of Boise, the city block identified as Block 75 was purchased by Adoniram Judson Boyakin in October of 1883 for the modest sum of $1,500.
By 1910, the block had been fully developed with homes built for the middle class. Businessmen, including a pharmacist, a hotelier, and a cigar store owner, occupied houses designed by architectural firms such as Tourtellotte and Hummel and Wayland and Fennell in a variety of architectural styles.
In 1987, several homes on this and adjoining blocks were demolished so the land could be used for surface parking by the First United Methodist Church on North 11th Street. This action earned the church an Onion Award from Preservation Idaho that year. Later grass roots efforts by occupants of the neighborhood resulted in a city ordinance which allowed the creation of a conservation district that restricted the creation of surface parking lots through the demolition of existing homes.
The demolition of four structures began in September 2003 and was completed a week later. Eventually, the entire block was denuded, with five homes demolished and five relocated.
In 2003, the Methodist church, presented a plan to the city to allow for the demolition of the remaining homes on Block 75, which they had acquired over several years. Their plan was to build an underground two-story parking garage with residential buildings on top. They wanted to remove the rest of the homes on the block. The neighborhood, with the backing of Preservation Idaho, stood firmly opposed. Following a rejection of the church’s proposal by the Boise City Planning and Zoning Commission, Preservation Idaho and the neighborhood group known as the Coalition for the Near North End petitioned the Boise City Historic Preservation Commission for the creation of a locally zoned historic district. Soon after a meeting of the commission to discuss the viability of such a district, the church and its developer requested and received demolition permits from the city for six of the ten historic homes on the property. The demolition of four structures began in September and was completed a week later. Eventually, the entire block was denuded, with five homes demolished and five relocated.
Although the Boise City Council denied the permit for the proposed parking garage, the conservation district did not prevent demolition of the historic structures. Rather, it prohibited the use of the empty block for use by the church as surface parking. The First United Methodist Church has left a harsh legacy on Block 75, and the entire neighborhood has lost an important part of its architectural diversity. However, this episode has left another legacy–a legacy infinitely more positive, and one that might not have been achieved without the church’s rash action.
The demolitions on Block 75 were only the last in a series of demolitions in the neighborhood. These included the historic Whittier School, one of Boise’s oldest academic buildings. Its loss awakened the neighborhood to the very real threat it faced. The only protection from such losses is the implementation of a locally zoned historic district, and it was this designation that the neighbors sought when it became clear that Block 75 would be lost. With the assistance of Preservation Idaho, neighbors raised funds with community events like Queen Anne’s Delight, and promoted awareness by picketing the church and sending letters to church members.
Ultimately, the efforts of the neighborhood were rewarded with the designation of the Hays Street Historic District by the Boise City Council in March 2004.
Ultimately, the efforts of the neighborhood were rewarded with the designation of the Hays Street Historic District by the Boise City Council in March 2004. With the heightened awareness created by these grassroots endeavors, a second pending historic district was created just weeks later. Within the space of six weeks in the spring of 2004, three new districts were created, and the area encompassed by such districts in the city of Boise was doubled. Also in 2004, Preservation Idaho awarded another Onion Award to the First United Methodist Church.
Block 75 is an example of an effort where Preservation Idaho and the community were not able to stop the destruction of historic resources. Often we learn of plans threatening building too late to intervene and assist the property owner in finding alternatives to demolition. In this case, creation of the Hays Street Historic District stopped further destruction to the neighborhood but did not save this block. The empty block stands as a reminder of what was lost, and can still be lost in other neighborhoods, without vigilance and active support in preservation of Idaho’s past. Please contact Preservation Idaho if you hear of any buildings that may be threatened.