Just behind Boise High School at 1020 W. Franklin Street stands The Bush Mansion, an intricately decorated building complete with workman’s details and a stunning tower. It was built in the Victorian Queen Anne Style, which accounts for all the detail. The Mansions exterior is built from brick, imported from St. Louis and zinc plated sheet metal which has kept the building in such good condition through the years.
The windows, some of which still contain the original stained glass, are accented with local sandstone and painted wood. The steep roof, characteristic of Queen Anne buildings, is still clad with the original tin plated steel feather patterned shingles. The wrap around porch, built with a spindled railing was originally paired with a second porch in the back that no longer exists.
The inside of the Mansion are simpler than the exterior. The walls are covered in old, if not original, wall paper and exposed brick. The current owner Glenn Martz has tried to keep with as much of the original style as possible, and has searched for and handcrafted old light fixtures, wooden décor and glass designs. There are three floors and a newer basement. Originally some of the rooms were designed for such things as parlor, dining room, breakfast room, maid’s quarters and a walk in closet.
Built in 1892 The Bush Mansion has 120 years of rich history to go along with its gorgeous architecture. I could find no information on the architect, but the house was constructed for $6,000 for James L. Bush. Bush had taken a ship around South America to come West before the Transcontinental Railroad, and became an important man in the Idaho mining industry. He nearly died once of asphyxiation when, in an attempt to foil the bandits who knew that smoke in the chimney where the gold was melt meant they were about to transport the gold bricks to Boise, blocked the chimney. The Smoke filled the room and Bush lost consciousness and couldn’t get out. He was only revived when the guts of a chicken were spread across his chest. When Bush retired from mining he married Ellen Bush, built and owned Boise’s now burned down Central Hotel and later built Bush Mansion.
When James Bush died in 1893 Ellen lived in the house with her children and grandchildren for eleven years before selling it to Council Man and President of the Pacific National Bank, Montford P. Meholin and his family for $10,000. The Meholins were some of Boise’s biggest socialites, frequently featured in the Statesman’s Society Section, and the house saw many splendid parties and gatherings, as well as meetings of the secret PEO Society, of which, Mrs. Meholin was a member. The PEO Society aimed at getting equal rights and education for women, but do to a lot of animosity had to go “underground” with secretive membership, secret handshakes and code words.
Unfortunately, the house was eventually sold and in 1939 single teacher Mary Stoddard, bought the house and rented rooms to other teacher friends. By 1945 Stoddard was renting to other city workers besides teachers, and by 1950 Bush Mansion was marketed as The Fleming Apartments. But, as America transitioned into the 1950’s people had a tendency to move into the suburbs, leaving downtown Boise an abandoned, undesired living space. This view was reflected on the Bush Mansion as the apartments became largely empty. In 1950 5 of the 7 rooms were empty. Due to its unprofitable status, the mansion was sold to the Methodist Church.
The Church planned to tear the building down and build a parking lot. Luckily the Bush Mansion survived because the Church thought that it would be too hard to prevent the Boise High School Students from parking in the lot. The Church sold the building to the current owner in 1974 and by that time the “tear down and build a strip mall” phase of Urban Renewal in the 1960’s and 70’s was starting to wane. Mr. Martz was able to make Bush Mansion again a Boise historic icon as the building regained its prestige and value. Today the Mansion houses a series of office spaces and one last teacher’s apartment.