Recently, we have seen an increased number of demolition permit requests for contributing historic homes within the boundaries of Boise’s local historic districts. In the past, some of these permits have been granted, to the detriment of history and the associated neighborhoods. Decisions regarding these requests can be difficult for commissioners and city staff to make. There is much to consider in preserving Boise’s charm and historic heritage. Licensed contractors often provide letters that state that a home is too deteriorated to rehabilitate. These letters can be difficult to confirm or dispute without an independent inspection.
We wish to applaud our current commissioners for honoring and maintaining the purpose of the Historic Preservation Commission. Boise is undergoing significant development and growth, and many of the houses in historic districts are reaching, or have already passed, their 100-year mark. With this milestone comes complications and unfortunately there have been a number of contractors hired who, while licensed, do not have specific expertise working on historic homes. Lately, we have heard the term “too far gone” thrown around much too cavalierly regarding the status of Boise’s historic homes.
As preservationists, we know that all homes can be saved if there is an intention to do historically sensitive rehabilitations and remodels. Boise and other communities throughout Idaho have countless examples of this truth. Preserving a historic home shows more care and commitment for a city’s character, livability, economics, and growth than demolishing and building new. By demolishing these homes, we add to the landfill and allow for development that diminishes the economic and aesthetic benefits of our unique historic neighborhoods.
A historic home is rarely ever “too far gone” for rehabilitation, and we are concerned that this language will become an acceptable excuse for those who simply lack the intention to preserve the area’s historic charm. Both “Demolition by Neglect” and demolition through lack of planning are a danger to our city and our historic districts.
We support the idea that contractors who work in historic districts should be certified as having received training on the Design Guidelines for Residential Historic Districts. These are the criteria accepted by the City of Boise that meet the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.
We are grateful to Boise’s HPC for upholding the standards established for preservation of historic homes and for challenging contractors and homeowners to exhaust all options before deeming a structure “too far gone” for reasons that do not truly meet 3 of the 5 reasons that permit demolition. The commission’s efforts and decisions are ensuring that future generations will continue to appreciate Boise’s charm and, in turn, make sure these homes work for the next 100 years.