A huge ginkgo tree towers over the light blue house, casting welcome shade over the front yard and porch. A white porch swing waits for lemonade in the heat of summer nights. Inside, the rooms are modern, with beautifully chosen colors painted on the walls. The third floor, originally the attic, is now a bedroom where anyone would want to curl up to read a good book. The basement goes a surprisingly long way for such an old house. A mysterious pair of clown shoes jut out from the brick wall near the stairs, like some leftover story line from a Dr. Seuss book. A greenhouse, a large deck, a sizable garden and flower beds fill the yard, with plenty of room left over. This is 1217 North 11th Street. It was built in 1892, the same year the first streetcar opened in Boise.
The block that the house was built on was originally owned by the Corbus family. They were part of Boise’s high society and very wealthy. The original owner of the house itself, however, is quite unclear. It is most plausible that it was owned by Franklin Corbus or his son, Frederick White Corbus. The first certain owner of the house was Frank’s daughter, Jessie Corbus. There is some evidence to suggest that she inherited the house from her brother.
Frederick Corbus was an affluent man in the sheep industry and ran for office in 1898 (he was about twenty three at the time). He was, it appears, poised to become a fixture of influence in the city and he no doubt would have, had tragedy not struck. On August 23, 1901, he was in a riding accident that left him unconscious. Initially, doctors were optimistic about him pulling through but on September 3, 1901, he died. It came to light that he had been thrown twenty five feet over his horse and landed in barbed wire. Doctors determined he had been killed by a “concussion to the brain”. He was not yet twenty six years old.
When he died, his estate (including life insurance) was estimated to be worth $35,000. He left all his property to his sister, Jessie Corbus. He appointed Frank Wyman (another affluent citizen) executor of his estate. When it was all said and done, Jessie received $19,000 and his brother Ray received $1,000. The first evidence that Jessie was indeed the owner of the house is from an Idaho Statesman article, dated January 23, 1902, that stated she and Frank Wyman had been married there. In the ensuing years, she hosted a number of society events for women there. Her husband went on to serve as a representative in the Idaho legislature.
It appears that the property was originally much larger than it is today. The evidence of this is first, the time period it was built. In 1892, the entire state of Idaho had a population of around 88,500 and so it stands to reason a family like theirs would have had a fairly large property. Second, in 1902, a barn was burned and caused around $200 worth of damage. There is no barn on the property today. Also, the current garage was added onto a carriage house. To have a barn, and a carriage house, the property had to be much larger than it is today.
The house underwent a series of remodels in the late sixties and early seventies. The owner commissioned G.C. Van Vleet to do the work on the house at this time. The picture window was among the first set of updates to the old house. The porch was enclosed with glass in 1975 (a common remodel to older homes). Two years later, the greenhouse was added and the patio was covered.
The next owner, Jerry D. Williamson, converted the attic into a bedroom in 1981. However, the current owners discovered that the room does not take up the entire attic as there is a small window that can only be seen from outside. The room directly to the left of the door was added on, as its foundation is more modern than the original. They also ripped out a spiral staircase and replaced it with a more traditional set of stairs. However, as it is such an old house, the staircase appears to be much older because of its narrowness and steeper grade.
Given the house’s age, it is rather surprising that there is no longer a fireplace. It is not clear what happened to it but as there is patchwork along the outside north wall, it appears as if something was once there. It is possible the patch job was done after the barn caught fire in 1902.
This house is a mixture of Queen Anne and folk Victorian architecture. Its Queen Anne characteristics are the machine made shingles on the second floor outer walls. The absence of the quintessential spire, however, keeps the house from being a classic Queen Anne home. Its long outer panels and steep roof construction, however, are more of a folk Victorian style. In addition to that, the porch’s eaves are in a craftsman style. It appears to be a house that can’t quite make up its mind which era of building it was constructed in.