Central Addition, one of Boise’s most interesting and arguably one of its most architecturally significant neighborhoods faces considerable threats to its continued existence. Though passively threatened by ongoing neglect, the most immediate threat is more pressing—demolition for surface parking.
About the Neighborhood
Bounded by Front and Myrtle Streets on the north and south, and 2nd and 5th Streets on the east and west, downtown’s Central Addition was platted just outside of the original Boise town site in 1890. Though originally populated by the social elite of the city, the neighborhood suffered a rapid decline in desirability with the expansion of the railroad along Front Street (read a short history of the neighborhood). Working class families have inhabited the area since the first decade of the Twentieth Century, and until recently its collection of architecture had been passively protected through the phenomenon of “preservation by neglect.” Architecturally significant examples of Queen Anne houses are interspersed with workers cottages, and the neighborhood boasts Boise’s only intact example of the Second Empire style. Take a self-guided tour (pdf) of the neighborhoods’ most important houses.
Why is it threatened?
Preservation Idaho first recognized the vulnerability of the neighborhood in 2007 when several houses were demolished in quick succession. The gravel parking lots that replaced them were apparently the leading edge of an unfortunate trend.
The neighborhood’s fascinating origins and long decline were featured in an ArchWalk that year, but Preservation Idaho continued to monitor the threatened district and attempt to focus attention on both its vulnerability and potential for revitalization. Over the course of four years, conversations with city officials, preservation-savvy developers, and other friends in the preservation community including the National Trust for Historic Preservation had left Preservation Idaho optimistic about the district’s future. Most heartening, was the 2010 decision by the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) to fund a study of the neighborhood, its ownership, and the possibilities for sympathetic redevelopment.
That optimism suffered a blow in the spring of this year when Preservation Idaho learned that two more houses in Central Addition had been acquired by a development company intent on the expansion of surface parking in the neighborhood.
Trilogy Development intends to enlarge the parking lot at the southwest corner of 5th and Broad streets with the removal of the houses at 411 and 413 S. 5th Street. Known historically as the Beck and Fowler houses respectively, both are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Trilogy has offered both houses to the preservation community for relocation but has placed a deadline of September 1st, 2011 on the moves.
Preservation Idaho, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the City of Boise, and CCDC are working to find a suitable site for the houses. Ideally, they would be relocated within Central Addition to preserve the neighborhood’s historic and architectural integrity. However, preservationists recognize that we may have to settle for another suitable lot in the city in order to see the buildings rescued. Estimates for relocation of either structure hover around $25,000.00 dependant upon how far the building must be moved. Read the Idaho Statesman's coverage of this issue.
How you can help
If you know of a suitable site for relocation or are interested in acquiring and preserving either house, please contact us. If Preservation Idaho is required to relocate the buildings itself, your donations will be only way to see that goal accomplished. If you are interested in the buildings, know of a suitable site, or are interested in renovating the houses yourself, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-424-5111.
White Knight Still Sought (Update Sep 16, 2011)
Preservation Idaho has been busy in the two and a half months since Boise first learned of the threats to Central Addition. At least a dozen individuals have been shown through the two houses on South 5th Street – a number that does not include over one hundred participants in June’s sold-out ArchWalk. However, despite the interest, no one has stepped forward to prevent the demolition of the Fowler House and Preservation Idaho needs your help.
After the publication of a front-page article in the Idaho Statesman on June 27th Preservation Idaho was inundated with phone calls from interested members of the public. Some were willing to consider accepting and relocating one or both of the buildings, while others just had good ideas about who might have the financial wherewithal for such a project and how best to reach out to them. In the intervening weeks, we have followed up on each of those leads. With one exception, each has eventually grown cold.
Since late June, we have been busy exploring options for the relocation of the houses. Specifically, we pursued the possibility of relocating one or both of the houses within the Central Addition neighborhood. Despite our best efforts, it seems unlikely that we will be able to find a permanent site for either house within the neighborhood. With that option unlikely, we have explored alternative possibilities in which the threatened structures would be moved outside of Central Addition.
We are pleased to report that one individual has come forward with a willingness to dismantle and elsewhere reconstruct the smaller of the two buildings – the Beck House at 411 S. 5th Street. The Fowler House, the larger of the two, has attracted far more interest but no permanent commitments to ownership and relocation. Both houses have received a brief reprieve. Trilogy Development’s original application for the construction of surface parking lot was to be heard by the Boise City Planning and Zoning Commission on the 12th of September. However, they have asked for a two month delay and their hearing has been rescheduled for the 7th of November. Though this development has re-set the countdown towards demolition, the stay is only temporary. Trilogy intends to move forward with their plans when approved by the city. Read more about Trilogy and their plans as well as those of CCDC in the Idaho Statesman's second front page article on this issue.
Preservation Idaho needs your help in order to prevent the demolition of the 1894 Fowler House. Any offer to relocate the building will be considered. We have identified potential lots for sale in the downtown core and have done initial work to price the cost of the house’s relocation. If you have an empty lot or an interest in relocating the structure, please contact Dan Everhart at email@example.com.