On the corner of Mobley Street and East Jefferson Street in the Boise’s East End, lies one of the many Boise buildings designed by the well-known third generation architect, Charles F. Hummel. The Hummel family first became widely known when the architecture firm started by Mr. Hummel’s grandfather, also named Charles Hummel and his partner John Tourtellotte began to thrive, designing icons of Boise and Idaho, such as the State Capitol Building, St. John’s Cathedral, the Egyptian Theatre, the Carnegie Library, and the Administration building at the University of Idaho, to name a few.
The firm changed and adapted to the evolution of architecture that occurred over the years, but to this day it has never diminished in stature and remains one of the most prominent architecture firms in the city and state. After attending Boise Junior College, serving his country in the European theatre of World War Two and then receiving a Bachelors degree from the Catholic University of America and his Masters degree from Columbia University, Mr. Hummel returned home to Boise. In 1953, two years after marrying his wife, Calista Ward, Charles Hummel earned a job at his grandfather’s architecture firm, which was now being collectively run by his father, his uncle and their partner, Jed Jones III. The same year, he began designing what would soon be the home of his family.
The house at 305 N. Mobley is unique from all the other Hummel buildings not only because it was designed by Mr. Hummel to serve as a home for his family, but he and his wife Calista still live there to this day. Built in 1956 and drawing significant influence from Frank Lloyd Wright, the home is a perfect example of the mid-century modern style of architecture that was popular during the fifties and sixties. The house has a ‘flat’ (barely slanted) roof, which was the hallmark of a modern style house. When it was originally constructed, it consisted of four bedrooms, two bathrooms and one carport in a one-floor house with a basement designed to be a playroom for the children. Twelve years after construction was finished an addition was put on the back of the house, adding a study, master bedroom and bathroom suite. The bathroom suite, not entirely representative of the modern era, has orange tiled and golden fabric walls with skylights above on the ceiling.
The house is laid out on two city lots, and, consequently, the lot behind the Hummel’s had gone unsold for several years, so the Hummel’s decided to buy it themselves making for an unusually large yard for a house in the east end. The outside of the house is sided in lap sided cedar wood, that is vertically aligned. This vertical paneling does not reflect the traditional, horizontal linear nature of most modern houses and serves as a personal touch made by Mr. Hummel himself. A very prominent feature of the house is the large sliding glass doors, that allow for an easy transition from the inside of the house to the outside. These sliding glass doors, seemingly a flush part of the wall as a whole, serve as examples of the interconnected relationship between the indoors and outdoors in many modern houses, allowing natural light to entire the living room on three sides.
Essentially, almost an entire wall of the living-dining room is made up of these steel framed sliding glass doors that lead out to the patio and the surrounding back yard, and there is an additional sliding glass door on the opposing wall. Another sliding glass door can be found in the master bedroom, which leads out into a Japanese style garden. These sliding glass doors transform the house so that the inside seems to be a continuation of the outdoors, as a part of the interconnected relationship previously stated. In accordance with the mid-century modern style, there are no decorative moldings in the corners where the ceiling and the wall come together. Rather, the surfaces on the inside and outside of the house form straight boxlike corners, with the exception of the lap siding that serves to add a subtle element of texture to the outside. The living room contains a fireplace that is fully functional but is more an element of decoration than a source of heat. The fireplace has no mantle and, following the trend of straight lines, is set in a completely flat, rectangular slab of pink marble. It is seamlessly flush with the fine wood paneling above and contributes to the subtle feel of the house’s overall architecture.
The original furnishings reflected the 1950s and 1960s, including pieces by Eames, Bertolli and Knoll, and other modern era and 1970s touches. Mr. Hummel designed the family kitchen table, circular on an aluminum pedestal with a teak rim.
Almost every hallway enters each respective room from the side as opposed to the central hallways of Queen Anne style homes. This allows the room to seemingly broaden and enhance the wide open feel associated with modern architecture. The modest kitchen is also consistent with the style, lacking the ornate decoration of art deco design.
Effectively, the home at 305 Mobley Drive is the epitome of a 1950s modern house with a distinctive added personal touch made by Mr. Hummel. This home, along with most modern buildings, does not have much applied decoration; instead, in the words of Charles F. Hummel, “its structure is the decoration.”
by Alex Rant