Erma Madry Hayman House
By John Bertram
Built in 1907, the small house at 617 Ash Street is a good example of Boise sandstone construction. The rectangular Boise house was built by a skilled stonemason and occupied by Erma Madry Hayman, who raised a family and lived there for 61 years.
The Hayman house measures 25 feet 6 inches wide by 35 feet 6 inches long, approximately 900 square feet. The modest one bedroom residence has a hipped roof with a central hipped dormer that formerly had two attic windows. The symmetrical façade has a recessed porch and squared sandstone corners around the porch columns, windows and doors. A protruding sandstone belt course around the house serves as the windowsills for the one-over-one wood windows.
The Hayman house provides a connection to the fading River Street Neighborhood of single- family homes. Its scale, shape, and architectural attractiveness strengthens the neighborhood image and creates a sense of place along Pioneer Corridor.
The stone dressing of the house illustrates excellent craftsmanship with chiseled square stone corners of the building and its windows, doors, and porch columns, typically done with chisel and mallet. The mortar joints are beaded and in good condition. The sandstone front steps illustrate the dressed stone with a pointed chisel, leaving continuous parallel grooves. The third step has 617 inscribed, while the widened top step is finished with vertical grooves. The house was occupied by Erma Madry Hayman from 1948 to 2009. Erma Andre was the twelfth of 13 children born to Amanda Chouteau Dodge and Charles Edward Andre on October 18, 1907, in Nampa, Idaho. Erma grew up and attended school in Nampa, surrounded by her large family who had their own orchestra, in which she played the piano. Her father played the violin and her siblings played various other instruments. Erma Andre was multi-talented. She was an excellent seamstress, making beautiful clothes, and using those sewing skills during the Depression to help support her family. Erma went to secretarial school, but was never able to find a full-time job, most likely due to the racial prejudice at the time, so Erma took a catering course with one of her sisters, made themselves maids uniforms and served parties on Warm Springs Avenue, earning $1.00 an hour.
In 1928 Erma met and married Navy Madry and from this union, three children were born, Barbara, Jeanne, and Frederick. By the time she was 28 Erma was a widow, as Navy Madry died of leukemia at the Veteran’s Hospital in 1935, leaving a small pension. Her daughter Jeanne remembers Erma as strict and no nonsense. One year when Jeanne attended Park School on 16th and Main streets, the teacher wanted her to play Aunt
Jemima in the school play. Erma marched all the way to the school informing the teacher of her disrespect and she played a ballerina.
Eight years later, in 1943, Erma married Lawrence S. Hayman, a baggage handler for the Union Pacific Railroad. They purchased the stone house in 1946 and the phone number was 8785-M. He took delight in operating model trains in the garage and grandson Richard Madry played with the trains in the attic when he was growing up. The couple later divorced. Erma raised Richard (Dick), who became the first African American to graduate from Boise State University after it became a four-year school. Richard Madry was also instrumental in insuring that the house was preserved and its history told. During World War II, Erma temporarily held a secretarial position but preferred to contribute to the war effort by working as sheet metal riveter, repairing aircraft at Gowen Field. The job she remembered with most affection was designing the display widows for
over 20 years, at Lerner Shops a ladies wear shop at 824 Idaho Street. A 2007 Idaho Statesman story quoted Erma as “I read anything that had fashion in it. Anything, you got to keep up with it.” She retired from Lerner’s at 65, but kept working part time for another six or seven years. After her retirement from Lerners, she worked as a site manager for the senior Meals on Wheels program. She was the consummate care-giver for those needing meal assistance, shopping or a friendly visit. In 1973-74 Ms. Hayman was chairperson of the River Street Neighborhood Council and
led the effort to have ACHD install a traffic signal and crosswalk at 13 th and River streets. The active council also worked with the nearby warehouse operators to discourage large trucks from Lee Street. Erma drove until she was 90. For many years, her 1965 black Ford Falcon was often parked on Ash Street. She loved gardening, sewing and her old house, where she lived to be 102.
The home stands today as a lone reminder of Boise’s past, amid a changing neighborhood. The City of Boise’s Art and History Department oversees the home and has recently finished a rehabilitation to open the space up to the public. The house is featured on Preservation Idaho’s River Street walking tour available online at this website. It’s preservation is important to remembering Erma’s legacy in the neighborhood and the broader diversity of the area in Boise’s history. Because of their excellent job preserving the building, Preservation Idaho awarded the City of Boise Arts and History Dept with their Orchid Award: Contribution to Historic Preservation in 2023.
617 Ash St. with Erma’s Ford Falcon and Hedge. 1971 (John Bertram)