The Coffin House is located on 1403 Franklin Street only a couple of blocks from Boise High. It was built in Boise in 1905 for an affluent Henry N. Coffin, the house’s namesake. When it was built, it was considered one of the nicest homes in Boise. In 1982 it was added to the National Register of Historical Places. It is now occupied by an intellectual property rights law firm.
The Coffin House has many ties to significant local figures from the past. Henry Coffin, the original owner of the house, was the son of William Coffin. William Coffin was a member of the Indiana state legislature. He was a Republican and supported Abraham Lincoln before the start of the Civil War and was also appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. He stayed in Leavenworth, Kansas during the Civil War. Indiana did not secede from the Union, but was having financial difficulties because it could not levy taxes due to a Confederate dominated legislature (which may have helped his decision to move to Kansas). Henry Coffin worked in banking and became President of the Boise City Council and also the Idaho State Treasurer during his lifetime. The Coffin family was well known throughout Idaho and the Banking world, both Franklin and Craig Coffin along with Henry Coffin had high positions in banking. Henry Coffin was an influential man in the Boise area and wanted his house to show just that.
The house was designed by the Tourtellotte and Hummel architectural firm. The two were famous throughout Boise for many buildings throughout Idaho such as the State Capital Building, the Egyptian Theatre, St. Johns Cathedral, the University of Idaho’s Administration Building, the Hoff Building, the old Ada County Courthouse, our own Boise High Main Building and many homes on Harrison Boulevard and Warm Springs Avenue. Many of the famous homes and buildings built in Idaho during the early 20th century were designed by this firm. Only the wealthiest and most famous residents could have homes designed by Tourtellotte and Hummel. Toutellotte himself was known throughout the West. He was a self educated man who was not afraid to show off his talent and skill. Hummel on the other hand, helped Tourtellotte behind the scenes away from the limelight.
Many homes during this time period were designed using the Queen Anne style of home. Many homes on Warm Springs, Harrison Boulevard and in North Boise show many features of the Queen Anne style, including the Haines House close by. The owner would later become the mayor of Boise and the governor of Idaho. This house reflects a later Queen Anne style which was much simpler, both on the inside and outside, than earlier Queen Anne homes. Often Doric columns were used instead of Ionic or Corinthian columns that were much more ornate incorporating a more colonial look to the house.
The Queen Anne style of architecture was a modification of the Victorian style of architecture originating from England. Queen Anne architecture differs around the world, but American Queen Anne architecture is usually incorporating in large homes from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. American Queen Anne architecture is usually ornate. It also has steep pitched roofs and an asymmetrical façade and a dominant front. The homes also commonly have patterned shingles, bay windows, and either full wraparound or partial wraparound porches on the first floor. The Coffin house has these features but does not have other Queen Anne features like a tower or grouped columns because of its later Queen Anne style.
During this time period homes often showed several different styles of architecture. Although this house shows many Queen Anne features, it also shows different American features that are almost Colonial in style. Second story bedrooms and a large rap around balcony are not common to Queen Anne styles.
The home has many cool features that make it stand out from other Boise homes. First, leaded glass windows made in Italy and glazed in France are incorporated throughout the House. The Coffin house was one of the first homes in Boise to be built to use electricity and indoor plumbing. Hot water heats the building through radiators in every room. There are no air vents and there is no ducting system. Pocket doors separate the main downstairs rooms, common to Queen Anne homes and are decorated with Corinthian wooden columns(Now that’s royalty). Sandstone, wood and concrete are used for the exterior, common to later Queen Anne style homes. The interior is decorated by unpainted Southern White Pine. We think the home was added onto much later where there is a new hexagonal structure almost detached from the main building.
The Coffin House is one of the most beautiful homes in North Boise and has a rich history along with its beautiful façade and interior.