The Eoff-Brady-Hon House
Downtown Boise is well known for several historic sites, but some are more ambiguous than others. On the corner of Second and Main Streets sits a beautiful example of a remarkable Victorian home that is a classic example of downtown Boise’s rich history.
The Eoff-Brady-Hon House was first built in 1899. Originally, the floor plan of the main house consisted of expansive suites which were modeled in a renaissance style. At one time there was also a ballroom in the basement for the enjoyment of those living there. The house underwent its most significant remodel in 1941 when its floor plan was redesigned to serve as an apartment building. Such a remodel was made easier by the fact that the rooms were already modeled in the suite style. Small kitchens had to be added to each room and bathrooms also had to be updated. On the ground and middle floors, sleeping porches built from the stone of the foundation were already in existence.
During the remodel sleeping porches constructed of wood were added to the upper story. A servant’s staircase was also added to the back of the house during the remodel in the 40’s so that servants could come and go without disturbing the family living in the rest of the house. The four smallest apartments in the entire house, on the uppermost floor, used to be servant’s quarters. The footman–the servant in charge of dealing with the horses and carriages–lived in what is now room number eight while the seamstress occupied the largest servant’s quarters, living in room number six. One of the remaining rooms would have housed a maid or housekeeper, and the final room was likely occupied by a cook. The rooms on the lower floors were designed for the family’s housing, and are therefore much larger. The original architecture of the house remains evident even after remodels and the conversion into to the apartment building it is today.
The Eoff-Brady-Hon House is full of local history. Governor James H. Brady lived in the house during his term as governor from 1909 to 1911. It is still known to some as “The Governor’s House,” even though it was only such for a short period of time. During his stay in the house, Governor Brady had a bowling alley built in the basement. Today one of the apartments has now taken its place. The house also received part of its name from another local celebrity. Romaine Galey Hon, Food Editor of the Idaho Statesman, owned the house until her recent death, at which time her son inherited the property. The tenants of the house remember Ms. Hon for her collections of artifacts from all over the world that she kept in the house. In order to preserve the original stained glass from the front door and the window on the first landing, Ms. Hon had the glass made into a coffee-table, which she kept. Now the front door’s window is replaced with plain glass and the landing’s window has a simpler stained glass pattern.
The house is not just locally significant because of the famous people that have lived within it, but also because of several of its architectural features that connect it to Boise. The foundation and impressive stone fencing surrounding the property is all sandstone from local quarries, just like many of the historic buildings in the area. Even though the Hon House would not be one of the houses normally associated with Warm Springs, it was heated with the geothermal power from the Warm Springs hot springs until the 50s when the house was converted to an internal boiler system. The remnants of the geothermal heating days can still be seen around the house. Every detail contributes to the rich history surrounding the entire house.
The style most closely matching that of the Hon House is the Queen Anne sub-style of the later Victorian architecture. Victorians were popular in the late 19th century, around the time when this house was first constructed. The Hon House fits the typical mold of a Queen; it has cross-gabled roofs, a multistory floor plan, and several porches and balconies. The exterior of the Hon House is patterned with wooden shingles that have been rounded and placed into a “fish-scale” arrangement. The house also featured many double hung windows. The cross-gabled rooflines on this house were created by two or more gable rooflines intersecting – another typical feature of a Queen Anne. A house with a cross-gabled roof could have a more complex layout than one with a simple gable roofline. The interesting roofline carried inside of the house, creating visual interest overhead. Tray ceilings throughout the building did not allow for traditional crown moldings. Torus moldings, the semi-circle molding normally seen at the base of Classical columns, were used to edge the walls and provide a break in the tall walls.
In the interior of the house, there were several interesting features as well. There are some details of the Hon House that make it unique to Boise. In the time period when the house was being constructed, it was not stylish to use wood from America. Therefore, instead of using local resources, all of the oak for the house’s extensive woodwork was shipped in from Europe. Most of the woodwork was done on the on the way to America, and was only finished when it arrived in Boise and was placed in the home. Because of this detail, unique mantels and panels still grace the house today. The spindles on the main staircase were some of the first in Boise formed by a machine. This made the spindles more affordable so that a larger quantity of them could decorate the stairwell. The metalwork throughout the house is extremely intricate, and also a throwback to another time. Many of the brass light fixtures and iron fireplaces grates are original, having been preserved over the years. Each feature makes the Hon house a distinct feature in Boise. An Idaho Statesman article in 1898 had this to say about the house “One of the finest residences constructed during the year is that of Alfred Eoff, on the corner of Main and Second Streets. It is Gothic in its architectural design and both its exterior and its interior present a palatial appearance. The first story is of pressed brick with stone trimmings, while the second story and gable are finished in cut shingles. The hall, dining room and sitting room are finished in oak and parlor in cherry. The house is fitted with all the modern conveniences the result of great deal of study. This beautiful residence cost in the neighbored of $9000.”
Every old house has its faults, its creaks, its slopes, its ghosts. As pointed out to us, the Eoff-Brady-Hon House is no exception. Although no ghosts have been known to haunt the halls at night, the house definitely has character. Any room above ground level slants noticeably towards the center of the house, where supporting beams have begun to rot and sink. The sleeping porches added during the 1940 remodel have slowly started slipping away from the house, becoming unsafe for actual sleeping. Windows have to be tied open. And as with many old buildings, and buildings occupied by multiple families, tenants suffer through cold showers because of a poor water heater and sleepless nights due to paper-thin walls. All of these flaws though make the house what it is. “Flaws” create the character of a place. Residents of the Hon House love the building because of the hole in their kitchen floor not in spite of it. Because of this, the house has remained in good living condition, all while staying true to its original construction. On the corner of Main and 2nd street in Boise one can still find a house both historically and architecturally significant.