Property Type: Institutional
Neighborhood: North End  |  County: Ada  |  Building Status: Public  |  Architectural Style: Pre- Railroad
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John O’Farrell was born in 1823 in County Tyrone , Ireland . At fifteen he enrolled in naval school and in 1838 he sailed to Calcutta , India . He then went to New York City in 1843 after his adventures in the Seven seas. Then he sailed around the Cape to find himself in Monterey California where he automatically became a citizen of the United States after California had been admitted into the Union in 1850. In 1847 he met John Sutter and found his passion of mining. He was also a soldier in the Crimean War and was awarded the Crimean Medal of Valor. Throughout the middle and late fifties, O’Farrell mined in several places. He ended up mining in Louisville , Kentucky which is where he met his wife, Mary Ann Chapman Lambert. After they were married, they made their way to Idaho which was their final destination. He built his cabin in 1863 for his seventeen year old wife. It was then the first home to ever be built in the Boise Area.
He cleared his land and had the cabin built for his wife and family on the block across the street from its current location, which is on 4th and Fort Street. It was a single room cabin that fit seven people and also had a fire place. It’s made with logs from cottonwood trees which were in large amounts along the Boise River . When he had first got the logs, they had a crooked shape to them, but he fixed it by flattening the inner and outer sides with a broad axe. The corners of the house were steeple- notched in order to drain water and prevent the wood from rotting. When the house was first built it had a pole roof and the gable end walls were made of log. The interior walls were then covered with fabric that was nailed to the logs and it had a dirt floor. A year later in 1864 bricks and sawn lumber became available and soon to be very popular. Soon after those things became available to the public, O’Farrell made the cabin more livable by replacing the pole roof with cut rafter and five rows of hand split shingles, which is what you see on most houses in the modern day. Instead of fabric being used for the interior walls, he covered them with planks, and was eventually wallpapered. The fire place ended up replacing the original stove that he had put in when he first built the house. The gable ends were also replaced with board and batten siding. He then installed a hinged door and glass windows. The O’Farrell family had lived in that cabin for over seven years then eventually moved into a bigger brick house which is located on the corner of Fourth and Franklin .
Years after they had moved out and John O’Farrell has passed away, the children offered the cabin the Daughters of the American Revolution under the condition that it could be moved and kept as a historic home. The association then secured the site facing Fort Street from the U.S Army Veterans Home and raised money for the cabin’s relocation. In 1912 many citizens of the community contributed $175 to be used towards the relocation. A lot of time and work went into restoring the cabin. They had to replace the roof shingles and a damaged log. They also had to rebuild the chimney and fireplace using some of the original brick. In 1934, some furniture was installed and the cabin was used for some social events. In 1957 the Sons and Daughters of the Idaho Pioneers took over the cabin and put a protective roof over the entire cabin. The city of Boise then took charge over the cabin. However, as the years went on, the cabin still continued to decay.
By 1979 the Boise City Historic Commission became aware of the horrible condition that the cabin was in and did their best efforts in order to preserve the cabin. By 2001, enough money had come through to where they could fully restore the home. It was 138 years old by the time they had started their project. In 2002, the cabin was fully restored. All new roof shingles, replacement logs, floorboards and even new paint had been put into place. The total cost of the cabin being fully renovated was 51,000 dollars and it remains to be 85 percent of its original construction. The O’Farrell cabin was one of Boise first family homes and Catholic worship centers. It is now the oldest family living home in the Boise area and one of Boise ’s most important land marks.