The ALPHA House, located at 419 S. 13th Street of the downtown district of Boise, is over 100 years old and one of the city’s remaining historic buildings from the Victorian era.
Built in 1900, the house served as a residential lot for its initial 65 years. The house is extremely small, with a base measuring in at only 868 square feet. The house is also an example of Folk Victorian style architecture.
Folk Victorian architecture became popular in the West during railroad expansion, because wood was used to build these styles, and wood was easy to transport. It also became popular because it was a simpler version of the desirable Queen Anne architecture that middle and working-class families could afford. Idaho’s annexation in 1890 caused a huge influx of people into the state, the population nearly doubling by the year 1900, so this house was likely a result of the combination of this population boom and the trends in the era.
The house has a porch with spindle work detailing, and a gable front plan, both characteristics of the Folk Victorian style. The house isn’t without its quirks, such as a very asymmetrical floor plan, creaky wooden floors, and old plumbing that often give’s its current owner a hard time.
The house was renovated in 1965 as a result of the Baby Boom. The kitchen was torn out of the house, and upon completion it was put back on the market as a commercial building instead of as a residential building. This change was due to its small size, for the Baby Boom time period was a time of affluence, and society began wanting bigger, better, newer houses. The ALPHA house is anything but bigger, better, or newer with its minuscule square footage and, according to rules in 1965, outdated design, it wasn’t a desirable house.
The house is actually one of the few remaining historic buildings in Boise, specifically from the year 1900, because of this attitude towards architecture in this time. The ‘revolution’ of architecture in the 1970s in Boise City caused historic buildings in the city to be torn down and replaced with modern buildings. It’s only been in recent years that the city has shown appreciation for the historic buildings, and has begun an attempt to preserve them.
In 1999, the building became the base for the Idaho Women’s Network, a branch off of the national grassroots movement called the Third Wave. The Third Wave is actually a third revival of the Progressive movement and its principles. The organization defines itself as one that “challenges laws, institutions and traditions that marginalize women, gays and lesbians, people of color and the poor.” In 2004, the organization moved to a different building and sold it to ALPHA, Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS.
ALPHA was founded by Duane Quintana, who, when was diagnosed with HIV in 1999, decided to start an organization dedicated to the prevention of HIV and AIDS. The organization uses the house as a station for free HIV testing, counseling, teaching of safe sex practices, and the famous “condom raids.” (During these raids, volunteers for ALPHA hand out condoms to anyone and everyone they see.) The organization is also partnered with both Planned Parenthood and Youth In The Know, two organizations that help people with issues varying from pregnancy to homosexuality, dating violence to STIs and STDs.
The house has come full circle, beginning in a progressive era and living now as a hub for progressive movements. Its construction, a response to a growing nation, and its current purpose, a response to a growing issue, make it a house that is almost a movement in itself.