The house on 805 N. 12st has a fascinating historical and architectural role in Boise. It was originally located about a block away diagonal and across the street from its current location. It was built in 1905 by John Tourtellotte. Tourtellotte later joined with Charles Hummel to create Tourtellotte and Hummel who are famous for designing Boise High School, and the Capital building.
The first owners of 805 N. 12st were sheep herders named the Becks. While her husband was away, Mrs. Beck commissioned for the house to be built. This is interesting because in the early 1900s it was extremely unusual for a woman to take charge like that and make plans to build home without her husband’s guidance or approval. The Becks had a crippled child so they included the first residential elevator in Idaho in their floor plans. The Becks lived in this house for the greater half of the twentieth century and when the current owners started making plans for a remodel they discovered there had been a fire in the 1920s which burned the whole top of the house off because all the beams in the attic were all charred.
In the latter half of the twentieth century the Cathedral of the Rockies around the corner from the house, decided they wanted that space for more parking. The church bought all of the surrounding houses and tore down most of them without regards to its historical or architectural significance. After the Cathedral of the Rockies purchased the Beck’s home it remained vacant for thirteen years. During these thirteen years it is said that kids from Boise High School would break in and smoke pot in the house. Transients were also said to be living in the house. All these frequent break-ins caused water damage to the back end of the house. The Walkers finally purchased the house in 2006 for only one dollar with the promise that they would move the house off the property. It took nine months to move to its current location at 805 N. 12th street and it weighed 200 tons. It weighed so much because they kept all the sandstone on the house when they moved it. The only damage done during the move was one stone fell off and broke in half. Once moved, it took nearly two years to restore to a livable standard.
The current owners are Jim and Monika Walker, who are dedicated to the preservation and restoration of their home, though they have made several additions and changes to the original outline. When they bought the house it was much different from the original blueprints of the house. It was very worn down and the whole front porch was non-existent. The fireplace within the house was no longer functioning so they replaced it with a larger one which matched the rest of the house. They also took out some hallways to make the rooms bigger and knocked down a wall upstairs to make a “master” bedroom though the bedroom is the size of any normal bedroom of today. Also the maid?s quarters had a large bench in front of their door which faced the front door. This bench was meant to prevent the maids from seeing the front door because it was not socially acceptable for them to do so. The elevator was moved to a different location in the house. Though it is still functioning, they keep it turned off.
None of the light fixtures are original to the house except one which sits on the post of the staircase named Phillis. Phillis is a fixture of a woman holding an eagle and was taken by the Becks when they moved from the house. Jim and Monika sought to return the light fixture to its “home” and spent their light budget for the entire house to get this one important light. Also all the woodwork in the house is original as well as all the radiators although they are not currently working.
The house was originally meant to be built in a tutor style but it was caught between the transitions of Queen Anne and craftsman style. At the turn of the century the style was evolving and this house reflected the transition. The two story layout reflects the Queen Anne style as well as the curved roof line above the front porch. On the other hand the relatively small size of the house and its rooms and a large, built-in cabinet structure in the dining room reflect its craftsman influence. It was built out of sandstone from the quarry dug up by the prisoners of the old penitentiary which is also more typical of the craftsman style. All of the windows on the first floor are leaded windows original to the house. Some of the windows on the second floor were replaced to match those of the first floor. There was originally a back porch which was about the size of two people but the Walkers added on and expanded it to about three times the size and extended the roof over it. This addition flows smoothly with the rest of the house and looks like it was original to the house although they had difficulty getting the new addition approved.
The historical review want to be able to see a big difference between the old and the new and they didn’t feel there was enough of a difference for pictures sake. Fortunately they eventually got it approved. Monika Walker says this is their favorite part of the house because they worked on it together and succeeded in following the trend of the rest of the house. They also added a stone in the shape of Idaho on the right side of their house which contains two quarters, one with the year the house was built and another with the year they bought the house. Another addition was a large basement which is still being remolded like the rest of the house. In the process of moving the house, the concrete of the basement walls was poured and the house was slid right on top of them.
The original blueprints were essential to the restoration of this house. A janitor from the Cathedral of the Rockies found the blueprints in the attic and gave them to the Walkers. They based their decision to add a front porch and their future plans to include a second smaller building on the lawn next to it, off those blueprints. Although the house still needs a lot of work on the inside to highlight is beauty the house has been almost completely restored to all its glory. Monika always knew she would grow up to restore an old house and is grateful to have saved this beautiful house from being torn down for parking spaces. Ironically, the space bought out by the Cathedral of the Rockies is still a vacant grass field after nearly four years. It would seem as though the extra parking was not as necessary as it could have been to preserve the historical significance of all the houses torn down in the process.