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119 Main Street

119 Main Street
Building Location 119 Main Street
Boise, Idaho 83702
Downtown Neighborhood
Ada County
Building Status Private
Year Built
Architectural Style Colonial
Architect
Type
Material

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Built in 1915 this house is an example of the colonial style of architecture, with square windows that are evenly spaced. However this house does differ from the traditional colonial style, the door is not located in the center of the house, it is off to the side, allowing for a large porch to take up the area normally associated with the entrance way. This house exemplifies many colonial features: it is rectangular in shape, it has multi-paned windows with distinctive shutters, and it is two stories high. It also contains a large fireplace and wooden siding, fundamental elements of a colonial house. Following traditional colonial floor plans the downstairs of this house is used as a living area, a place to eat and sit and other activities while the upstairs contains the bedrooms. The colonial style derives from the Federal and Georgian styles, so this house shares some characteristics of the other, usually older houses on the street. It shows a much simpler style then its neighbors. Contrasting with the excessiveness of the Victorian and Queen Anne styled houses right across the street, 119 is a much more restrained, less elaborate style of building. This colonial style grew in popularity in 1876 and it reflected a unique blend of patriotism and simplicity, it is recognizable as early American living, but it is less elaborate than what had been prevalent in society up to that point. The interior of the house further reflects this desire for simplicity, the white plain walls and large doorways show an easy living, the original light fixtures that still remain are plain brass, and all of the windows remain unchanged. The house has no air conditioning and contains a heating system that is fairly unique, the house is lucky enough to have geothermal heat that heats the entire house. This house isn’t solely interesting for it preserved architecture and materials, what really makes a building interesting is the history of that house. This house has been standing since 1915, and belonged to Peter Sonna, who was famous for running a movie theater in Boise. He acquired the house after building the house right next door, the Sonna house. The house is still owned by the neighbor, and it is rented out. Sonna owned both houses and the property they stood on, he was one of Boise’s first entrepreneurs. He made his money when a railroad still ran down Main Street. Originally it was a place for his gardener to stay. The most interesting part of this house is the fact that it used to be next to what was known as “Basque town” or “midget town” This midget town was a collection of very small houses that were essentially poverty cabins. After a day of sheparding the Basques would stay the night at those miniscule homes. Since it was so close to the railroad Chinese immigrants would live there, then ride the train out to the mine, and then take it home at the end of the day. These small living spaces were placed right next to the Sonna house, and the adjacent one, contrasting the quality of life for hard working immigrants and their rich white counterparts. Sadly the “Basque town” no longer stands, for all of those cabins were torn to the ground. Now an apartment complex occupies the space that once held so much history, all that is left are the stories from the neighbors. The current owner of 119 Main street has done a very good job of preserving the house, and the history that goes with it. He often meets and talks with the owners of other historic houses right next to him or across the street from his house. The dedication to preservation of the house, but most importantly the story of the house is what makes this house so interesting. The stories of formal dinners attended by previous occupants at houses right across the street, the story of Sonna’s movie theater and his need for a gardener, the story of a dispute over eight feet of property. These stories are what really matter, these stories are why preservation is so important. A residential home contains so much history, so many examples of excellent architecture, and that makes it important.

Building submitted by Ryan Meier and Conner Farley

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