The historic Uranga House lies on the corner of 3rd and Bannock in Boise’s old East Downtown, and is a regular stop of the Boise Tour Train. The house was built in 1910 in the Boise City Original Townsite by an unknown architect for the family of Ruel Rounds, who was the first United States Marshall to the Idaho Territory. Rounds served as Marshall from 1902 to 1908, and was a very prominent member of the Boise community. At this point in it’s history, the house was appropriately named the Rounds House, and featured two stories, with 3 large dormers displayed from the top floor, funky rounded roof sections between the dormers, a sleeper porch, and the original geothermal heat system that is still being used today. Although it was previously believed that Rounds and his family occupied the house for some 35 years, a clipping from a November, 1917 edition of the Idaho Statesman reveals that Rounds sold the house to Clayton Davidson for about 6,000 dollars. Now, the history of the house gets a little sketchy here, it is believed that a basque family bought the house either from Davidson or another family, and were the ones that did the first large scale renovation.
This family completely changed the house and it’s style, making it look like more of a square, while adding some Spanish elements to the house, such as the stuccoed walls, and the shingles on the roof. The second floor was redone, bringing the floor out in flush with the ground floor, but keeping some of the style of the original Rounds House by adding similar dormers above the second floor, with a single dormer at the front of the house and two dormers on each side. Most of the external features that define the house today were added in this renovation. The upper floor was basically two long rooms with a single hallway running down the middle.
When the first Basque family and the Uranga family owned the house, the house was rumored to serve as a boarding house for Basque immigrants, using the upper floor rooms as bunk rooms. There isn’t any proof of this, and current owners have their doubts about this happening. What we do know is that the Uranga family was a very prominent family in Boise, especially within the Basque community, and the house served as a community center for some 50 years during the Uranga’s owning of the house.
The house has been featured in exhibits at the Basque Museum in Downtown Boise. The house today is owned by the Nevin, Benjamin, McKay, and Bartlett Law Firm, who remodeled the building for commercial use. Important features of the house today that were not original include with eastern facing bay window, and the rounded arch entrance ways on the North and Western facing sides of the house. The rounded entrance is repeated upon entering the house, with a similar rounded archway immediately on the left of the door, and in the lower front windows of the house, which are complemented with curved corners at the top.
The fireplace uses a Spanish style tiling which is thought to be original to the first post Rounds renovation. The front staircase, which is very steep, still has its original metal wrought handrail. There are balconies on the left and back sides of the house, which were added during the first large renovation. The owners actually aren’t sure if these are safe to stand on, but the owner we interviewed told us we could take the risk and stand on the back one during our interview to have a good view of downtown Boise. All of the windows in the house have the top part of the window divided into 6, and the bottom undivided.
There is a back staircase, which was most likely a servants staircase, which is also very steep and at the back of the house. There is a basement, which houses the original Geothermal energy connections of the house. The two rooms on the 2nd floor have been largely divided into offices and a bathroom. In terms of style, the house is largely eclectic. There is not much symmetry besides the actual shape of the house aside from the bay window, and the placement of windows seems largely random. The house does have a classic spanish/basque feel to it, complemented by the Shingles, the stucco walls, and the green and red colored windows which represent the basque flag. The roof does hang out noticeably over the house, and over the dormers.
You can see by comparing the Uranga house old photo to the current house that a concrete fence has been removed from the east yard. The house has an essential Spanish colonial feel. A trip to the basque museum might well be warranted for the near future for us.