In July, 1913, J.H Oakes, a wholesale merchant, and his wife Jessie took out a building permit
for a $12,000 dwelling and hired the local architectural firm of Nisbet & Paradice to design
their new home. The 17-room, 6,000 square foot house was designed in the Neoclassical
Revival style and features brick walls, sandstone trim, and oak detailing. Of particular interest is the two-story, pedimented front porch with minimally decorated, full-height columns,
which lend the house its distinguished neoclassical influence.
When constructed, the house was considered one of the most modern in the city. The dining
room had a floor bell to call servants and the lower floor also included a living room, music
room, and solarium with a billiard room in the basement. An upstairs bedroom features an
unusual bed which could be used in warm weather. The bed extends outside the wall of the
house with a special screened cover. When not in use, the bed can be pushed into the cover
which converts into a bench.
The Oakes’ lived in the house with their two children, Fred and Sarah, until Jessie’s death in
1922. The house was then sold to Boise developer, Walter E. Pierce. Founded in 1890, W.E.
Pierce and Company was primarily interested in real estate and quickly began developing and
promoting Boise. Over the next 40 years Pierce was instrumental to Boise’s growth. The
fi rm developed most of the neighborhoods in Boise’s North End and platted subdivisions in
the East End and along State Street as well. Walter entered politics and served as mayor of
Boise in 1895 and 1896, was elected president of the Commercial Club, today’s Chamber of
Commerce, and operated the Natatatorium, Boise’s natural hot water resort. He organized
the Boise and Interurban electric railway which connected communities in the Boise Valley.
In 1927, the Pierces temporarily left 1201 Harrison to allow Governor H. Clarence Baldridge
and his wife Cora to use the home as their official residence during his time in office. Pierce later returned and remained at that address until 1943.
This architectural eclecticism fell out of favor after World War II and Harrison Boulevard, like many older areas of Boise, lost some of its appeal. That said, Boise’s civic, political, and cultural elite never completely abandoned the neighborhood and the appeal of its grand houses continued to attract the upper echelons of Boise society. In 1977, a tour of homes on Harrison Boulevard to raise funds for the relocation of the Bishop’s House drew approximately 5,000 participants in five hours. The street was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and was further protected when the City of Boise designated Harrison as a local historic district in 1989. Harrison Boulevard in Boise’s historic North End continues to prove the ideals of the early Twentieth Century and illustrate that beautiful neighborhoods improve the spirit of a city and enhance the well-being of its citizens.
*This home was featured on the 2014 Heritage Homes tour by Preservation Idaho. To learn more, click here.