John E. Tourtellotte’s architectural designs and styles have been extremely influential on both Western America and the City of Boise. Born in Connecticut in 1869 to a French Huguenot family, Tourtellotte incorporated many European architectural techniques and Enlightenment ideals into his buildings. Perhaps the best example of this is the Idaho State Capital, which he designed to utilize the natural light in a manner symbolic of mankind’s journey towards enlightenment. Other significant works of his include: Boise Senior and Junior High schools, the Carnegie Public Library, and St. John’s Cathedral. His works, however, were also inclusive of residential housing, as evident with the Willis Mickle house. Staying true to his European roots, Tourtellotte made use of an Americanized version of Victorian style homes known as Queen Anne. The gable, front and back porches, tower, and trim designs are all indicative of Queen Anne design. This style is important both because of the rich architectural history from Victorian Era roots, and as proof that the increases in industrialization in America at the turn of the century made this style of home available to wealthy developers even on the frontier. The signal that the industrialization of the east had truly crossed into the Western frontier was monumental to the development of Boise: economically and culturally. Boise wished to establish an aura of sophistication and class to an area which could only be described as rugged.
Except for a single remodel in 1978, the Willis Mickle house had been preserved remarkably well. The wrought iron fence, interior stonework, fenestration, and original ovens amalgamate to bring the onlooker back to an authentic time of the past. As with a multitude of other Tourtellotte masterpieces, this home had been added to the Idaho State Historical Society National Register of Historic Places. As seen in the accompanying photos the house has been expertly crafted, and just as its Victorian Influences would suggest, each room has a specific purpose, as opposed to other homes with multi purpose rooms. This indicates that families of that time had reached a level of affluence and had enough activities to occupy multiple rooms.
This home has been in the possession of the same family for over twenty years now, and remnants from the surrounding community are inscribed upon it. The sign atop the shed in the back reading “Happiness is Spoken Here” is from the Hollywood market, which was once an integral part of the North End community. Unfortunately it was closed down after Maggie, the owner, died not too long ago. The sign from the store was purchased and now resides in their backyard, continuing the legacy and heritage of other establishments in addition to its own. This house remains prideful in its classic North End heritage.
The house now generally reflects the attitude of the family currently living in it. The Stained Glass, and almost exclusive Hard-Wood furnishings on the ground floor create a feeling like the house is somehow alive, reacting to each step. The owner used to run his own business in the office just past the main living room, and as such tried to incorporate an inspirational and artistic vibe to the house. One example of this artist’s ingenuity is the upside-down three dimensional “breakfast mural” located on the kitchen ceiling. The mural is essentially a small dining room table hanging off of the slanted ceiling, with all the fixings of any typical breakfast. Unfortunately, the gravity seems to have shifted sending half of the meal falling toward the ground. The doors and doorknobs are also original, giving an incredible aesthetic effect to the exterior of the house. It also seems particularly interesting that one of the occupants also attends Boise Senior High School, another building designed by John E. Tourtellotte and company.
Above all else, the preservation and integration of this classic Queen Anne home into the modern era is a testament to the passion and reverence for history shown by the residents of the North End. The Willis Mickle House will, hopefully, retain its historical beauty and personality into the foreseeable future.