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Charles McCarthy Home

Charles McCarthy Home
Building Location 1415 W. Fort St.
Boise, Idaho 83702
North End Neighborhood
Ada County
Building Status Private
Year Built
Architectural Style Usonian and Prairie School
Architect
Type
Material

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In 1905, Charles P. McCarthy settled in Boise with his wife and daughter. The Charles McCarthy home was built in 1913, it’s design inspired by plans sold by Frank Lloyd Wright in a 1907 edition of “Lady's Home Journal”marketed as “The Fireproof Home,” one of Wright’s more simple blueprints. Early in their domestic use, modern electronics posed a fire hazard and Wright intended these homes be made of concrete rather than the typically popular, less expensive wood and plaster construction. Like many other homes built during this period, the Charles McCarthy house was built mostly of the latter. McCarthy was a court judge and president of the Rotary Club of Boise. From 1920-1925 he served as a Idaho Supreme Court Justice. As commissioner of this house, he is responsible for the near doubling of its size. C.P. McCarthy built the entire home to be wheelchair accessible, because he planned to live here until his final days. This home encases a main floor and upper floor that are similar in layout that includes; a guest bedroom, master bedroom, bathroom, quaint kitchen, and gorgeous french doors, and a basement. With it's cozy architectural style that meets somewhere on the spectrum between a Usonian and Prairie School style home, McCarthy wanted to ensure comfortable yet stylish living for his wife and daughter in addition to extra living space for his widowed mother to take up residency upstairs, for a total of nearly four-thousand nine-hundred square feet. Though Wright initially thought that his designs would be relatively affordable, at that time the average annual income was around seven-hundred dollars, so this new compact, and economically designed home was, in large part, reserved for the middle-class family. With Boise beginning to expand more and more in the early twentieth century, it was no surprise that, when, in nineteen ten, a great forest fire turned one sixth of Idaho's northern forests, the fireproof home. Not unlike Lowell Elementary, which was built in the same year, the plans designed by Wright were built with expansion and urban growth in mind, and it's condensed layout demonstrates that idea, but the Charles McCarthy home, with its large french style double doors, minimalistic design, and large gaping windows allow that abode to maintain an overall impression that the allotted space is just enough, and it's three stories worked effectively to avoid outward development, making way for prospective neighbors in this growing western city. One of the McCarthy home's greatest features are its built-in or "box gutters." This unique design allows drainage to slip into a concealed drainage system, preventing constant buildup and visible mismanagement of the gutter systems. Throughout it's one-hundred years, this house has had multiple owners, and most were well-known in the community. Other past owners have been supreme court justices, and the original owners of Boise's oldest restaurant: Sav-On Cafe. For sixty-five years, Herb and his Wife, whose name is unknown to the current owner and the internet, lived inside the flesh colored home and raised their family. When Herb passed away, the last to go of the family, the home was sold, in two-thousand eight, to it's current owner. Today, the home is in amazing condition. When talking to the owner during the tour of her home, she proved that she was the best possible person to have bought this house. As she grew up, she admired the home from afar. She even attended North Junior High School right across the street, and during those three years the home taunted her. The day the 'For Sale' sign was put up in the yard of 1415 W. Fort Street, was her lucky day. She did not hesitate when deciding she wanted to buy and live in the house. The owner said that she didn't want to ruin any aspect of the homes historical value. Instead of fixing the home into a 21st century modern style, she kept the 1900's feel. Although we were not able to see the upstairs half of the home, the bottom half said quite a lot. The oak floors were refinished, but remained all original. The fireplace was remodeled, as well as the kitchen, and the bathroom. The bathroom was the only complete gut-job. During the restoration of the home, she was required to dig into her basement's ceiling for more space. This led to her discovery of old black and white photo negatives. She had them developed, and now displays them, framed, a top her fireplace. One unfinished change to the home's interior is the attempt to strip the white paint off of the woodwork in the home. (Note to readers: Don't paint the wood in your home! They say "once you strip wood, you will never paint wood"). The owner says she'll "save it for a rainy day," because it's quite a workload. One noteworthy story about this home is that it’s haunted! Fortunately, it’s not your everyday horror-story haunting. Named “Herb” after the homes longest resident, the ghost keeps mostly to himself. The owner claims it’s because he has no need to frighten her, for she respects and retains the [personal] value of the home,as Herb had when he owned it himself. However, Herb doesn’t get along too well with a certain guest- the plumber. During a simple inspection that required all faucets to be unused at the time, or else the man doing his job would become soaked in water, Herb decided to pull some pranks. He entered the upstairs bathroom, turned on the bathtub, and purposely drenched the poor plumber below. The plumber yelled and asked her to remind the renters upstairs that they shouldn’t have been using any faucets. When she attempted to do so, nobody was home. How could this be true? The plumber said he heard a door open and footsteps enter a room and turn the water on, with his own ears. With a glazed look in his eye, the plumber said “I grew up in an old house. I do not doubt anything that just occurred.” So, yes, 1415 W. Fort Street may be haunted, but that doesn’t change the fact that the home is one amazing structure. The “flesh color,” as called by the owner, may not be appealing to the eye, but looking past that the home is quite respectively one of seven great wonders of Boise.

Building submitted by Jessika Solleder, Grace Ryan and Rosie Hanna

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