Joseph Bown, and his wife Temperance Bown, built the Bown house in 1879. At the time of construction, the sand stone house was viewed as luxurious because many Boiseans still lived in wooden or adobe shacks. Bown used sandstone from a quarry that is still near Table Rock Mesa. Even though Bown could see the quarry from his house, across the Boise River, he had to follow the Boise River around to it, because the Broadway Bridge had not been constructed until later. One interesting aspect of this house are the two colors of the sand stone, the darker, more purple, color of sandstone in the front and the lighter color on the other sides. This difference can be attributed to the idea of making the front of the house the most attractive side of the house.
The Bown House is constructed in the popular style between 1840 and 1885, Italianate architecture. This style is characterized by the low pitched roof, a bulky rectangle, or almost square, shape with a square cupola on top. In addition to these aspects, the house has decorative railing along the balcony and window’s walk, the balcony around the cupola. Also the windows are in the “Eight light-One over one sash” style, meaning that each window has eight panes, or lights, and can be opened by sliding the bottom four lights over the top four. Also, the original house was floored with yellow pine, which is still visible on the top floor. The walls were constructed in a way, with specific air space between them that eliminates much of the noise coming from other parts of the house.
Juno Van-Ocker, a docent that runs tours of the Bown house, said that the house is relatively quiet, even during the tours of sixty fourth graders. Also, the house stays relatively cool, or warm in the winter, when the doors are kept closed. Finally, an oddity of the Bown House is the number of closets, which were not common during the period it was constructed.
The Bowns used the house from 1879 to 1893. During this time, they used the house primarily as a farm house. However, when the school of the area burned down in 1889, the Bowns opened their house to provide a temporary school, converting their dining room to a classroom. In 1893, Joseph Bown sold his house and farm to W.T. Booth, and moved to a farm further west. The house then had a long history of owners, who all left their mark on the house. This includes expanding the deck, the wood used is still visible in the side of the house, and adding numerous remodels to the interior, including carpeting and adding walls into the rooms. In fact, the house was a rental for nearly forty years. In 1977 the house was named a historical landmark.
Hugh Hartman reported that “The stone for the Bown house was ferried across the Boise, River. According to my Grandfather, Ira J. Rose, said the remains of the ferry was in the river across from the quarry until it finally disintegrated. Ira Rose, also, said that Mr. Bown was known as “Bub”
The house, and lot, was purchased 1988 by the Boise School District and it was debated whether the house should be dismantled or not. Luckily, the Idaho Preservation Society managed to convince the Boise School District to build Riverside around it and to use it for educational purposes.