Hidden behind historic Harrison Boulevard lies the quiet 1007 N. 18th Street, an unassuming home that dates back to 1910. From the street, the most distinctive feature would be the decorative rafters that suggest a California-style bungalow influence, popular in this area of town. The house boasts a facade-spanning porch and central dormer, lending it character. Wide steps lead up to the asymmetrical entrance and the hardwood floors of the interior.
This neighborhood was part of the Highland Park Addition, a suburban area designed for high-end homes that would cost at least $1500. Over three thousand trees were planted to maintain the feel of an exclusive, upper-class community. 18th street is noticeably wider than its neighboring roads, due to the electric trolley that ran its length all the way from Dewey to Main Street. Walter J. Abbs, the home’s first occupant and the general manager of the Boise Title and Trust Company, purchased the property in 1910 and constructed it for $6000. He was a well-known member of the community as he sat on the board of trustees for the construction of the First Congregational Church of Boise and the YMCA; his daughter even graduated from Boise High in 1912! John L. Driscoll bought the home in 1923 and lived there until 1955, when it was sold to John West Hewitt. John was a prominent banker in Boise and owned a bank on 10th and Idaho. He was also a founder of the Hillcrest Country Club and holds a track record at Boise High that still stands today.
John and his wife Ardis Marie had five children: Jack, Janie, Jim, Nancy and Ardis Christine. Ardis Marie’s family is related to the sixth chief justice of the United States, Salmon P Chase. Her family was also one of the early families to Homestead in Boise and her granddaughter, Jane Gordon is the sixth generation in Idaho. Janie Hewitt would grow up to meet the famous jazz musician Gene Harris when he entered into semi- retirement in Boise. The namesake of Julia Davis Park’s Gene Harris Band Shell and BSU’s annual Gene Harris Jazz Festival, Gene Harris moved to Boise in the 1970’s and was known for giving numerous performances at the Idanha Hotel. In the early 1980’s, however, Ray Brown visited and convinced him to come out of retirement and go back on tour. Janie and Gene, eventually married, lived for several years in the pine-paneled basement of the house, making use of its separate entrance to host numerous parties and gatherings. They were able to lure some of the greatest names in jazz to Boise, including Lionel Hampton and Ramsey Lewis. After her husband’s death from kidney failure in 2000, Janie Harris maintained his legacy into the 21st century, hosting “Jazz Straight Ahead” on Boise State Public Radio and co-authoring his 2005 biography. She was well known and loved in Boise, dying in 2011 from breast cancer. Her mother, Ardis Hewett died in the master bedroom of the house in 1999.
Kevin and Pam Storms purchased the house in this year. The Storms made extensive renovations to the interior and exterior of the house, in order to fix cosmetic things restore original features. One feature the Storms addressed was the tin paneling that was wrapped around the house. In the 1930’s tin salesman traveled the country, offering tin siding as a means to protect the outer wood paneling of houses. The house was thus covered entirely in tin siding that wasn’t removed until 2000. Because of the interaction between the metal and Boise’s dry heat, the cedar underneath was hardened over the years and needed only a quick paint job to look as good as new. Between three and six layers of wallpaper were torn off of the walls, and the interior walls (as well as the exterior) were repainted. The Storms kept the pine paneling in the basement (as it stands today), which was installed by the Hewitts around the 1950’s, reflecting a popular trend of the time.
The current owners of 1007 N. 18th St. are the Gabrielis, who bought the house when they moved to Boise in 2007 and updated the kitchen. In the process, they discovered the one of the many inconveniences of an older home; the exterior insulation was little more than paper! They reinsulated the walls during their renovation, and also closed what had previously been an exterior entrance to the basement. Some of the distinctive moldings were replaced, but replicated the originals so as to preserve the home’s authenticity.
Listed on the Boise historic registrar, 1007 North 18th Street is a relic of Boise’s past, and its historical significance is evident from the architectural features of the house and the influence of its occupants; prominent bankers, a Jazz musician, and young families.
– David and Therese Gabrieli
– Kevin and Pam Storms
– Jane Gordon
– Boise Weekly Article “Jane Harris Dies”, by George Prentice, on May 9th, 2011
– History of Idaho: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress …, Volume 3, By Hiram Taylor French
– Harrison Boulevard book