In 1921 William and Etta Dunbar purchased a lot at the corner of 15th and Hays streets. The
couple initially made a $25 down payment on the lot which they eventually purchased for
$1,200. Two years later they commissioned the well-known architectural firm Tourtellotte and
Hummel to design a one-story house. The Dunbar’s son recalls that his mother worked with
the architects to design the charming house.
The Colonial Revival house is an example of one of the most popular residential styles in the
United States. The entrance is approached through a small gabled portico with a set of fluted
Doric columns and pilasters. The decorative crown over the front door supported by columns
is a common feature of the style. The front door sidelights, multi-paned double hung windows,
and symmetrical façade are also illustrative of the Colonial Revival.
The small, elegant Dunbar house was constructed at a cost of $7,000 by the local contractor J.O.
Jordan who came to Boise in 1900 and began a successful business of speculative residential
construction, and, later, general contracting. The original plan for this house called for a living room, sun room, kitchen, hall, and single bedroom. However, to accommodate the growing
Dunbar family which would include two children, Maggie and Bill, Tourtellotte and Hummel
drew plans to finish the attic, which added a recreational room and storeroom. The attic was
finished in 1934 and a basement was also added, enlarging the house to a comfortable size.
The Dunbars used the attic for entertaining and hosted card parties and other social events
in the large space. Bill Dunbar, a talented musician and member of a local band, used the
basement for rehearsals.
William C. Dunbar was born in New Jersey in 1874 to John and Elizabeth Dunbar. Dunbar
graduated with a law degree from Columbia University and moved to Boise in 1900. He
worked first as a teacher at Boise High School and later became principal of the school. He left education and practiced law in Boise serving as probate and juvenile judge and as Justice of the Peace. Henrietta, “Etta”, Dunbar was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union
and the Columbian Club.
*This home was featured on the 2014 Heritage Homes tour by Preservation Idaho. To learn more, click here.