Quietly nestled on the only deep block on the north side of Warm Springs, this finely crafted Colonial style home stands out to all who drive by. The homemade tree swings, as well as the exquisite beauty of the home easily grabs the attention of all who walk by. This home is located at 1302 Warm Springs Ave. The home has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and is truly a highlight of Boise’s architectural and historical significance.
The home is full of family history, starting with the original owner Judge Charles Cavanah. Cavanah was nominated in 1926 by President Coolidge to sit on the United States District Court for the district of Idaho. He served on this court until his death in 1953. Senator William Borah would often spend his summers in the Cavanah home. A passionate isolationist, Borah toured the country speaking in opposition to Woodrow Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles and kept us out of Wilson’s League of Nations. Senator Borah was extremely popular in the state of Idaho and served 6 consecutive terms, making him the longest serving member of Congress from Idaho.
Built in 1924, the house has been passed down through 3 generations and was originally designed by architect Fritz Hummel. The Hummel Architecture Firm was established in 1896 by John E. Tourtellotte and Charles F. Hummel. Tourtellotte is best known for designing the Boise Capitol Building. Other buildings designed by Tourtellotte and Hummel include Boise High School, the Carnegie library, and even the administration building at the University of Idaho. Tourtellotte was famous for using an eclectic mix of styles in his buildings. He often compared the architectural style of an era to the advancement of morals in society during those eras. The Hummel Architecture Firm has touched nearly every corner of Boise with their architecture, including several other homes on Warm Springs.
The Cavanah-Higer home was designed in a Georgian Colonial style. Hummel and Tourtellotte patterned the house after a home they had seen in North Carolina. From the exterior, the symmetry of the windows on either side of the large entry and the rectangular floor plan signify the colonial style. The shutters on both sides of the windows add to the symmetry of the home. As for the interior, the large central hallway and second-floor bedrooms are typical characteristics of a colonial home. The home features interesting mortar work above four of the first floor windows. Even the gutters have received significant architectural attention as shown by the diamond patterning. The entry is lined by four Greek/Roman columns topped with a triangular-shaped roof which further reveals the home’s colonial design. The interior of the house, especially the dining room, contains several unique artistic elements. The dining room includes original pewter lights which hang on the wall. The corner cupboards feature original hand-carved colonial woodwork. The living room has the original fireplace, which is patterned with woodwork to match the rest of the home. A sitting room, located off the living room, is decorated with original windows and is lined with geothermal venting.
In 1978, 54 years after Cavanah had the home built, Dale and Ramona Higer became the new owners of the home. The Higer family is the first family not directly related to the Cavanahs to own the home. The Higers have raised their family in the home and made a few changes to it along the way. Dale Higer remodeled the kitchen himself; he enjoys woodworking and built the new cabinets that currently line the kitchen. They took a particular interest in matching the style of the new kitchen to the original style of the home. The Higers purchased 17th Century Dutch tiles that adorn the fireplace, which tell the story of the Old and New Testament. Dale Higer closed the original back porch in order to make room for the new breakfast room, an addition to the kitchen. The back wall of the breakfast room is lined with windows that open up the beautifully landscaped backyard. In the backyard, the Higers not only converted their old garage to a new 18th century carriage house, but they also added a pool and several gardens. The home is located on 1/3 of an acre and features geothermal heating. This was possible because many of the people who built mansions on Warm Springs owned the hot water lines (which is how Warm Springs got its name.)
The Higers furnished their home with an array of early century 19th century elements. Some of these elements include statues, armoires, tables, and a grand piano which all add to the colonial feel of the house. In addition, the Higers have shown incredible interest in the architecture and style of their home. They have put an effort into preserving the original features of the house and their work has paid off. Their favorite style elements of the home are the symmetry and clean lines of the exterior. The home is registered in the National Register of Historic Places and, due to their 32 years of ownership, the Higer family name has been placed on the plaque outside the entry of the home alongside the name of Judge Cavanah.
The Cavanah-Higer home leaves a lasting impression on all who enter. The Higers are incredibly heartwarming people and filled with knowledge that they are ready to share about the home and the surrounding area. The home has played a vital part in the history of Idaho and of course added to the beauty of the Boise community immensely.