Property Type: Institutional
Neighborhood: Warm Springs/East End  |  County: Ada  |  Building Status: Public  |  Year Built: 1910  |  Architectural Style: Craftsman
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The Children’s Home, located at 740 Warm Springs Avenue, was built in 1910, costing 42,700 dollars to build. The Children’s Home Society of Idaho, however, was instituted in 1908, and the building’s cornerstone was laid that same year. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Built from sandstone from the Table Rock Quarry (the same source of stone for the capitol building) the Children’s Home reflects a few different characteristics in architectural style, despite being overall a relatively simple building. The use of sandstone and the exposed rafters suggest the craftsman style. The almost flat roof is indicative of the prairie style. Both these styles are concerned with reflecting the natural environment around them. The Home humbles itself in this way, having very little ornamentation on the building itself, yet the largeness of the structure has a grandeur about it nonetheless.

Cynthia A. Mann donated the block of land that it was built on and taught a school in a six-room cottage on the grounds. Renowned architect, Charles F. Hummel, who also built much of Boise, designed the plans. Originally built as an orphanage, the building plan was relatively simple. In the basement the washing was done. The first floor had offices, living apartments, a kitchen, and dining rooms.

The second floor had two rooms on either side filled with single beds, one room for girls and one for boys. Between them a nursery for babies. Also on the second floor were hospital and operating rooms. Additionally there was one room that could only be reached from the outside, serving as an isolation room for kids with infectious diseases. In the attic, more beds could be found, along one wall would be the girls beds, along the other, the boys. The Home could hold up to 100 orphans at a time if needed, and often did.

By 1940, a large new wing was added to the north of the Home. It was connected by an underground tunnel that is still there today. Stories say through it the girls would sneak over to see the boys. On the northeast corner of the block a 2 story concrete hospital was built. These buildings today are used primarily as offices. Only the building built in 1910, the original Children’s Home remains in the Society’s possession.

In 1966 state legislation was passed making the care of unwanted children a responsibility of the state. Many of the services provided by the Home were no longer needed. Through the 50s and 60s orphanages were falling out of favor, and considered less appropriate for dealing with children without parents. The foster care system was gaining popularity and credibility. Orphanages were being considered inhumane. A child would not have individual attention from a mother and father figure in an orphanage just because of the nature of such homes. There were too many children and it was impossible to give individual attention to each kid. So from 1966 to 1968, the home ceased functioning as an orphanage. In 1968, the last kid was adopted out of the Children’s Home, marking an official change in services.

From 1970 to 1975, a youth’s home for troubled children was established but the leadership was conflicting and the organization needed to re-approach the goal of the society. Neighbors, realizing the implications of having delinquent teenager boys and girls next door after police had to be called out to regain control of several youths, protested. Finally after a survey of what was most needed in providing children services, a children’s counseling center was organized. It opened in 1975. The home was now focused on psychiatry, counseling, and therapy for children and their families, whether they can pay or not. Today they serve over 3,000 children each year.

In 1997 the Children’s Home was in desperate need for remodeling. Almost 90 years old, the inside of the building was falling apart around the counseling offices. The lighting was dim, the electrical work shoddy, and the plumbing crumbling. The Society launched its first massive fundraising project, the Capital Campaign, the goal to raise 1.4 million dollars. The Hummel architecture firm and Steve Wensel of Wensel Construction partnered to carry out the remodel. Charles F. Hummel, named after his grandfather who may have contributed to originally crafting the buildings design, drafted up the remodel plans for the inside of the Children’s Home. In six months construction was complete and the inside was completely different. The Home had been brought safely and speedily into the modern world, the counseling offices now warm, simple, and inviting.
A conference room, an observation room, a library, and five new offices, as well were added. The outside, on the other hand, had not been touched, and still is completely original. However, on the inside only the attic remains from the original days, the chipped paint and old wood floors standing witness to the tales now locked up in bulky old filing cabinets that clutter the space presently used for storage.