The Ludwig, Shoufler, Miller, Johnson Law Office is located at 209 W. Main St. near Downtown Boise. The building was originally designed and built by entrepreneur R.J. Kohny in 1900. Kohny made his money through work in the department store business, and more particularly Falk’s Department Store. His income was also bolstered when he establishing his own businesses in the old mining district of Idaho.
Kohny’s vision for the building was his own personal dream house, constructed in the craftsmen style. Because of the intricacy of design synonymous with craftsmen style homes, the building was not completed until four years later in 1904. Unfortunately during the same year of the completion, Kohny became gravely ill and was admitted to the Portland Sanatorium. He eventually passed away while in Portland and tragically was never able to live in his dream house. While grieving for the lost member of their family, the Kohny family sold the house to another family.
In 1924, the house was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Fletcher. Frank and his brothers owned the Fletcher Oil Company. The company refined and marketed its gasoline and petroleum products under the Veltex brand. Mr. Fletcher also owned the Camas Oil Company and close to one hundred Veltex service stations and bulk plants in Idaho and another hundred throughout the Northwest up until roughly 1950. The Veltex brand still remains with the Fletcher family and notably appears in front of the current Veltex building on 5th and Main Street and at the Fletchers’ convenient store in Ketchum, Idaho.
The Fletchers had two sons and three daughters. During the summers, the family would go to McCall while Frank worked in Boise. In 1939 though, Mr. Fletcher kept his family in Boise during the filming of “Northwest Passage” out of concern over the “show folk.” His wife insisted that he should build a swimming pool if they weren’t to go to McCall, which he did. The Fletchers relocated in 1949. The family returned to Boise in 1967 and Frank suggested once again purchasing their old house but they decided to move to the bench due to Mrs. Fletcher’s insisting that the home was a “wife killer”
Upon the relocation of the Fletchers, the Hesfords came into owning the property. The history of the home became bleak when five-year-old Zella E. Hesford drowned while swimming in the backyard pool. Once again the death of loved one drove a family to leave a beautiful house. The Hesfords filled in the pool and moved out, but there have been reports from families occupying the house after them, that Zella’s ghost remained in the house. Multiple accounts of a “haunted house” scared away potential owners during the mid-20th century, forcing the building to be converted to a commercial and office building instead of its original design as a residential home.
The building spent time as a restaurant, art gallery, and even an international headquarters for a food distribution service company after its conversion. Eventually it became the law attorney office it is today and even now the employees continue to comment on the presence of Zella in the building. Even before the attorneys moved into the building to began work they were warned by their neighbors that there was often a young, robed girl floating by the upstairs window of the left wing, an office now occupied by Scott Ludwig. The ghost of Zella has also been reported to occasionally open the windows and flicker the lights in the right wing office space of the main floor. Suspicions of a supernatural force were intensified when, only a few years ago during renovations, Zella’s tombstone was discovered in the fireplace on the main floor.
Despite its spooky origins, the law attorney office continues to stand out as one of the most beautiful craftsmen style buildings in Boise. This type of style is determined by the awning over the front porch, a characteristic found in almost all craftsmen homes. This building is unique because the lower level is constructed from Boise sandstone, but the second floor is made from wood. This contradiction highlights a shift from an antediluvian style with the stone, to a much more modern type of material with the wood. It also makes the building much more appealing to the eyes of passing pedestrians. The windows are also a very notable feature. The leaded windows, along with the diamond patterns, are still intact from the original construction of the house back in 1900. They were a part of Kohny’s initial vision for his dream house. The exterior of the house is very effectively complemented with elements of nature. Hanging flowers and matching maple trees on either side of the building add life and zest to an otherwise dull color scheme.
Several distinguishing features of the house include a sunroom attached to the main building on the left. The sunroom boasts the same diamond patterns as the rest of the home and extends down the length of the house, providing a space for intimate gatherings or other activities. The house itself is very spacious. Both the top and bottom floors each have six rooms each and the basement houses a geothermal heating system. This size is the main reason the house could be used for commercial purposes in the first place. The law office rests in an optimal position on the outskirts of downtown Boise. It is located right across the street from the Old Penitentiary Building. The result is an overdose of Boise architecture in a single block. Its origin as a home also places it within walking distance of multiple eating and shopping destinations.
So in conclusion, although the building did not retain its original function as a home, it continues to serve as bright spot in our city. In 2009, the law office was featured as one of the homes on Boise tour of homes put on by Preservation Idaho. My partner and I would like to thank Christina and Scot Ludwig (a current employee) and Scott Peyron (the current owner) for their contribution to this essay. Their willingness to help with our research was extremely helpful.
Further thanks to Peter Hirschburg for contributing the story of his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher.