A House Saved for the People, by the People
By Ana Lete
Photography by Kimberlee Miller
Drive down Old Penitentiary road in Boise, and you’ll see a grand Queen Anne Victorian style home sitting in stark contrast to the Old Penitentiary across the street. Walk into the bright home, and run your hand across the original handrail, look into original curved windows, stroll across the home’s original hardwood floors, and sit by two original fireplaces.
Built in 1889 (when Boise was still four dirt roads) by architect, James King, The Bishops’ House originally sat on 2nd and Main (now St. Luke’s Hospital) and was home to the first six episcopal Bishops of Idaho and their families for 90 years.
Originally from the south, the first Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho, Bishop Funsten, and his wife, Ida Funsten, felt a calling to Boise’s small-town charm. After applying for the Bishop position a 2nd time, the Bishop and his wife moved to the city of trees in 1889.
Ten years into their stay, however, Ida wished for a new home with a veranda. After failing to find an adequate Boise home and receiving an anonymous donation of $10,000, a local architect, John Tourtellotte, assured the Bishop that he could turn their pre-existing home into the Queen Anne Victorian style home that she wanted.
After serving the Bishops of Idaho for 90 years, the new Bishops decided to stay in their own homes and The Bishops’ House was leased to St. Luke’s to be used as a senior center. When St. Luke’s proposed the building of a parking garage at the houses’ location in 1975, however, a small group of people formed The Bishops’ House Preservation Society to save the home from demolition.
With help from Mayor Eardly, Arthur Hart, and house mover, William Huckstep, the home was cut into pieces and placed on a truck, where it jiggled down Warm Springs Avenue. As the movers turned onto Old Penitentiary Road, the house began sliding off the truck and the move was halted temporarily. After trimming trees and lowering powerlines, the house was placed across from the penitentiary and the move was complete.
Today, the home is maintained by Executive Director, Elizabeth Yates, and a small devoted group of board members. Throughout the year, The Friends’ of the Bishops’ House host several public events including a Harvest Dinner, a Victorian Holiday Open Parlor, and a Mother’s Day Tea Party.
As one of the only Queen Anne Victorian Style homes in Boise that can be rented for weddings, birthday parties, or other celebrations, The Bishops’ House truly is a house saved by the people, for the people. The Bishops’ House also offers historical and educational tours by appointment and are working toward adding more educational and historical events to the calendar.
Visit www.thebishopshouse.com to set up a historical tour of the Bishops’ House, volunteer with The Friends’ of the Bishops’ House, or stay up-to-date on all of the Bishops’ House’s events and see what this beautiful historic home has to offer!