Jim and Shelley Williams’ home at 1660 West Bella Street is located in Boise’s historic North End, just a few blocks away from Camel’s Back Park. The house sits on the Eastern 50 feet of lots 6 through 10 on Block 28 of the North Locust Grove Addition (created in 1896 by the Cox and Weiler families).
Around the turn of the century, Boise’s plat was quickly expanding through the development of such additions. Laid out in grid like patterns, these subdivisions formed an ever changing city boundary. This expansion, as well as the significant increase in construction of larger buildings downtown, was a prime example of the influence of the Progressive Era’s optimism on Boise. For instance, the impressive Idaho Capitol was completed in 1912, the same year that the William’s home was built. Furthermore, the renaming of 17th Street as Harrison Boulevard in 1891 (following President Harrison’s signing of the Admissions Act which declared Idaho a state, and his subsequent visit to Boise) would prove to affect the future of this home.
Because the streets west of Harrison were shifted down one number in 1916, in order to reintroduce 17th Street back into the growing city, the address of this residence was likely different during its first few years. The 1912 edition of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps indicates that the house number was probably 1701 or 1712 Bella prior to this change.
The Sanborn Maps also show us that it was the first house on the block; not surprisingly as it was built on the far, still-developing, northeastern corner of town. In fact, the neighborhood’s first sidewalks, curbs, and arc lamps were installed during this same year. The maps also indicate the presence of a stable behind the home in 1912, which was later converted into a shed and eventually taken down.
Despite the fact that continued development to the area (such as the earlier installation of a streetcar and the 1916 addition of a median parkway to Harrison) would eventually cause this neighborhood to be enveloped into the city, at the time the area was quite rural. Given its initial location and need for a stable, it is likely that this house and its early occupants were involved in the area’s surrounding agriculture –farmland filled the outskirts of town, and the Findley Poultry Yards were only two blocks from the home at the time of construction. In addition, there were 2 smaller structures depicted next to the stable on the 1912 maps, perhaps suggesting further housing for farm animals, such as a chicken coop.
While little is actually known about the initial reason for building this home, it seems to be a vernacular piece of architecture in that it utilizes the same materials (such as the molded concrete blocks still visible today) and modest style of other dwellings in the area.
Throughout the years, 1660 Bella was owned by several individuals and appears to have been rented out frequently. In 1906, before the house was built, real estate agent John A. Davis owned this land and was recorded to have been living “on the corner” of the property enclosed by Bella and what was then 18th Street. While Fidelia Heron, widow of prominent farmer and local politician David Heron, owned the land in 1912 when the home was constructed, she was never recorded as living there.
After her death in 1917, the property was passed on to her son Frank Heron, and eventually her granddaughter Lulu Heron, neither of which ever lived in the home either. In 1925, Fidelia’s executor of estate, Frank Martin, purchased the property before selling it to Oscar Spies in 1926. Oscar Spies, a music salesman and the later founder of the Spies School of Music, lived in the home for 5 years before selling it to C.E. Burgess, who then quickly sold it to Emil Marenholtz. Emil, who was a foreman for the State Bureau of Highways, lived with his family in, and possibly rented out, the home until 1943.
While Emil had split the property from its original 122 foot wide 5 lots to a Western 72 foot section and an Eastern 50 foot section, he sold both parts to Mary Holland in 1944. Mary, a widow, lived in the home until selling it, on just the 50 foot eastern section to Cecil Beddoe in 1947.
The Beddoe family owned and ran the Boise Floor Service during the fifties and sixties, and may have ran it out of their home on Bella periodically. Cecil and his family lived at 1660 Bella for nearly thirty years before it was sold repeatedly to several other individuals in the seventies. Ralph Benton owned the home from 1979 through 1994, and it was occupied by various members of the family. In 1994 Marcia Warne purchased the home and lived in it for six years –at times with her son Zion, a well known Boise artist. Between the years 2000 and 2002, the home was sold several 1times before being purchased by its current owners, Jim and Shelly Williams.
There were two major remodels/additions to 1660 W. Bella in 1958 and 2001. The first addition was made on the back side of the home, adding what is now a TV room and two bathrooms. It also appears to have created indoor access to a small basement (via one of the bathrooms) which was likely an outdoor cellar previously. The original outside concrete blocks on the back side of the house are still visible in the hallway created by this addition. On the outside of the home, there was a change in material from concrete blocks to a wooden siding. The second addition created a wide hallway on the eastern side that leads to two bedrooms in the back. While the upstairs bedroom and bathroom were believed to be original to the house, the 1912 Sanborn Maps do not indicate a second floor. However, the next available edition in 1949 does note the presence of a second floor.
Whether the home had not been completed by the time the 1912 maps were drawn, or the upstairs rooms were added shortly after, the hardwood flooring in the upstairs bedroom is thought to be original to the home.
Likely during one of the major remodels, the locations of the home’s staircase and front door seem to have been moved. On the Sanborn Maps, the front door is noted as being in the right front (southeastern) corner of the home, facing south, inside what appears to have been a closed-in front porch. While the porch is now open, the front door now faces east and is located near the middle of the front of the house.
The current staircase is located where the front door would have originally been, and creates an interesting storage space where the eves were opened. As a result of this move, a shuttered window, visible only from the outside of the home, is now inaccessible from the inside as it is hidden behind the stairs.
While the house at 1660 W. Bella has been altered on numerous occasions over the years, it is a beautiful home with much of its initial character still intact. Oddly placed and hidden windows, original outdoor blocks forming an interior wall, a long list of unique previous owners, and, according to the homeowners, the thought that the house was at one point surrounded by gardens, all contribute to the intriguing history of this Boise home.
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