SAVING HISTORY – RELOCATED VICTORIAN SHINES AGAIN
The Queen Anne cottage originally constructed at 412 S. Fifth Street in Boise’s Central Addition neighborhood and recently relocated to 1501 W. Jefferson Street, was built in 1893 for Marcus B. Zimmer. No architect has been identified for the house and no details regarding its construction have been found. We know the year of the building’s construction because the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Boise dated January of 1893 do not include the house, but in late October of that year, an article in the Idaho Statesman newspaper notes “the residence of M. B. Zimmer in Central Addition.” Much of the interior of the Zimmer House features the same decorative trim as the 1893 Jones House originally constructed at 419 S. Fifth Street (since moved to Reserve Street), but some woodwork at the rear of the house is unlike the rest and seems to correspond to an early undocumented alteration – possibly repairs after a fire in 1906. The Sanborn maps indicate that a wraparound porch on the front and left elevations was altered after 1956 when the portion along the front was removed and the remainder enclosed. This alteration to the porch likely took place when the interior was divided into a two-unit duplex. This had been completed by the fall of 1959 when a classified ad in the newspaper offered for rent a “one bedroom duplex”.
Marcus B. Zimmer, typically referenced as M. B. Zimmer, arrived in Boise in early 1891. Advertisements in the Idaho Statesman reveal that he was proprietor of The New York Store where customers could purchase dry goods, underwear, hosiery, notions, tinware, etc. By March, Zimmer was advertising the arrival of furniture shipments which would begin a specialization in furniture sales that would continue for over a decade in a series of business partnerships under various commercial names.
As a member of the merchant class, it is unsurprising that Zimmer chose to build his new home on S. Fifth Street in the Central Addition and the house must have presented an attractive, upper middle class appearance upon completion. On October 25, 1893, the newspaper reported an attempted burglary at the Zimmer home.
Burglars entered the residence of M. B. Zimmer in Central addition Monday night. One of them was just entering the sleeping apartment when Mr. Zimmer spied him and fired a shot at him with a revolver. The burglar rushed from the house and, with his partner, who was standing guard on the outside, made his escape. The burglars were evidently professionals as they picked two very fine locks in order to gain an entrance.
Despite this encounter, Zimmer continued to live at the house, where with his wife (the daughter of an early business partner) they raised their young children. In July of 1897 he successfully ran for a seat on the Boise City Council and both Zimmer and his wife were active in the Baptist church and in various social and political organizations.
In September of 1898, the Zimmer Family moved from their Central Addition home to a residence near N. Ninth Street on Franklin Street in the Near North End. Early in the new century, while retaining his furniture store downtown, Zimmer began to invest in real estate. In June of 1904, he purchased 256 lots on the east side of Harrison Boulevard for $15,000 – the equivalent of nearly $400,000 today. Zimmer soon began acquiring property outside of Idaho including in Olympia, Washington and on the Oregon coast. On July 25, 1907, Marcus Zimmer died unexpectedly in Coos Bay, Oregon where he had amassed a large real estate portfolio. There is no record of his wife and children returning to Boise.
The Idaho Statesman reported that the Zimmer Family was moving to the Near North End in September of 1898. However, it wasn’t until nearly a year later, on July 4, 1899, that the paper announced the sale of the Zimmer House to Mrs. Mary S. Wood for $2,000. Mary Shoup, a native of Salmon, Idaho was the cousin of George L. Shoup who served as the last Governor of Idaho Territory, the first Governor of the State of Idaho, and the first U.S. Senator to represent the Gem State. Through her cousin, Mary met and eventually married Colonel Charles A. Wood, a close personal friend, business partner, and legal advisor to Governor Shoup. Col. Wood was a native of New Hampshire who had served in the Civil War before relocating to Salmon in approximately 1875. An attorney, he engaged in territorial politics and served as President of the Territorial Council – a cabinet of sorts to the Territorial Governor. Elected to represent Salmon and Custer County at Idaho’s Constitutional Convention in 1889, Wood died suddenly at his home in June without fulfilling his duties.
Mary Shoup Wood remained in Salmon until the summer of 1893 when she was given an appointment as the first State Librarian with care of the State Law Library. That position brought her to Boise where she lived at the corner of N. Fourth and Washington streets. In 1899 Wood relinquished her government post and shortly afterward purchased the Zimmer House in the Central Addition. During her ownership of the house she traveled extensively and played a minor role in local politics.
In November of 1902, Mary S. Wood sold her house in Central Addition to Clara Amundson for $2,400. Following the sale she returned to Salmon. Except for brief visits to the Capitol to look after real estate interests and visit old friends, Wood remained in Salmon where she worked as a teacher and engaged in local civic and charitable organizations. Mary Shoup Wood died at her home in Salmon on October 29, 1929.
Clara Amundson purchased the house at 412 S. Fifth Street from Mary Wood in November of 1902 and sold it in April of 1903 to John C. Schmelzel for $2,500 – a $100 profit. Schmelzel and his family relocated from Nebraska to Boise in 1900 where he operated a butcher shop. Like Clara Amundson, it is unlikely that John Schmelzel ever lived in the house but rather rented it over the course of his three year ownership. Mrs. Catherine French and her two sons were living in the house on May 19, 1906 when a fire damaged the building. Despite the description of the event provided by the newspaper in which the house was described as being “gutted” and “practically destroyed”, physical evidence in the current structure - including the interior trim - refute the Statesman’s claim that the house was heavily damaged. At the rear of the house, interior trim differs from that found in the rest of the building. It is likely that this is a result of repairs made to the structure following the fire. By the time Schmelzel sold the house in February of 1907 to J. M. Connors, proprietor of the Palace livery stables, it was valued at $3,000 and described as a “modern six-room cottage” that was “one of the prettiest residences in that section of the city".
It is unknown whether Connors lived at the house or for how long he owned it. By early 1914, George and Lulu Schweitzer lived at the house. George was a founder of the Boise Butcher Company who died before the Second World War. Lulu Schweitzer lived in the house until her death in 1946. Her son Frederick lived at the house until his own death in 1955.
With the deaths of the Schweitzers and their son, the house entered a period of decline that matched the decline of the Central Addition neighborhood which it occupied. The house had been converted to a duplex by 1959 and a series of absentee landlords rented the property to socially disadvantaged occupants.
By the time of its one hundredth year, the house and its neighborhood were flanked by multi-lane highways through downtown Boise and increasing pressure was put on the neighborhood to replace its aging houses with newer commercial and residential structures. In 2015, the 122-year old house was moved to its current location by Rita Sturiale with the assistance of the developer LocalConstruct and Preservation Idaho which had advocated for Central Addition for a decade.