Not far from prestigious Boise High School lies a house with deep history and impressive architecture. Once one of the most remarkable homes in Boise it now finds itself lacking the same recognition. While the outside remains virtually untouched, the inside has been transformed from a private residence to four apartments. Located at 1211 Washington Street, it is not only a stroll away from the High School, but is also nearby an assortment of other downtown amenities.
Built in 1901, this building has been around for a substantial part of Boise’s existence. It was built for the Idaho Supreme Court Justice Ralph P. Quarles. Being a prominent man in a relatively unremarkable City at the time, the house received an abundance of attention from the media. The house was even featured in the local Capital News with the appraisal as a “handsome new Boise city residence”. The article went on to discuss the floor plan, style, and architectural significance. The original house featured eight chimneys, allowing the fireplaces to serve as a useful heat source. A unique use of double walling was used as well in order to keep the heat inside the house. This technique was relatively new and innovative for the time. It also boasted a large, yet practical, kitchen, a guest chamber, a library, and a summer friendly screened in dining area. It wouldn’t be long, however, before Quarles’ passed away and the home would be turned into a set of apartments, completely abandoning the precise and detailed floor plan of before.
Following Quarles’ ownership of the house the records and history becomes fairly unknown. My interviewee, the current owner of the property, knows that it was abandoned for a substantial piece of time during and possibly following the thirties. Other than that, however, it is very unclear as to who owned and used the house from the 20’s to the 30’s. During the eighties, nineties, and early years of the twenty first century the house bounced around between over six different owners. These owners ranged from individuals renting off the property for profit to at one point Boise High School. Currently the house is owned by a couple in Boise that rents out the apartments for profit. They said they were attracted to the architectural style and the historical significance of the house. But they, like many others, feel they lack a full understanding of the deep, yet unknown, history behind the Quarles residence.
The architectural style most closely related to this house is that of Renaissance revival. The building is a simple cube shape, typical in the neo-renaissance, with intricate patterns along the top. Brick was used all along the front and sides and provides a strong and attractive frame. The brick on the front, however, is much higher quality and expensive, while the sides contain a much cheaper grade. This was done with the logic that the front was what the viewer would be seeing and it, therefore, required the highest quality of materials. All around the house sandstone is used as well. This sandstone, taken from a local quarry near Table Rock, is used above and below the windows as well as for a keystone in the front of the house. This not only provides for a visually appealing element, but also a historical one that is rarely recognized by the common viewer. Another element that confirms the renaissance revival style is the massive white pillars in front of the house. These pillars not only bring a sense of prestige to the house, but they also provide for a deck on the second level. The entire outside of the home is original except for a small section that was added on to the rear of the building. The building shows clear signs of aging, with the most probable causes being the over one hundred year age of the building and the unknown years of desolation. This sense of maturity can be seen on the top edges of the building along with the fading brick on the front. Considering the circumstances, though, this building has hung on quite well.
Upon entering the house one is greeted with a small corridor with maple flooring. Two apartments are located on the lower floor and two more are located on the second floor. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the inside is the hardwood flooring. Not only is it original, but it brings out the character of the house. The inside is also filled with details throughout. Simple things such as doorknobs have unique designs seldom seen in the typical house. The half circle windows above the two doors in the house, common in the neo-renaissance style, also exemplify the use of detail in this house.
Upon the building of the Quarles residence, it was not only viewed as an icon of the city, but also a momentous step forward in Boise Architecture. Its unique style, impeccable location, and overall charm attracted the fancy of many. While this history behind this home lacks full understanding and recognition by many, it clearly separates itself from the rest of the playing field when it comes to architectural charm and deep historical significance in the city of Boise, leaving it with the well deserved classification of a hidden gem.