Warm Springs Avenue Historic District

Boise City, Ada County, ID

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The Warm Springs Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]

The Warm Springs Historic District is an established residential area with large homes and mature trees. The ninety-six residential structures included in the District date from the 1870's through the 1930's, with the majority having been built in the period 1890-1920. The one institution in the District, the Children's Home, is a group of three structures built in 1910, 1924 and 1934.

The District is architecturally significant for the large number of fine houses representing a wide range of architectural styles spanning seven decades (1870-1940).

Including two of Boise's older residences (George Russell, 1869 and John Maynard, c. 1879), this district also contains a number of fine examples of Queen Anne architecture, specifically the Kingsburry, Kinney and Eraser residences.

The Colonial Revival style is well represented on Warm Springs Avenue by the Cavanah, Cox and Roger Davidson houses. The large sandstone Children's Home near the west end of the district is both socially and architecturally significant.

Fine examples of the Mission Revival, Tudor, and Bungalow styles are also found on Warm Springs Avenue. Indeed, this historic district provides a rich variety of architectural styles which reflects the constantly changing taste in residential architecture.

When Idaho became a state in 1890, Boise entered a period of abrupt growth. At that time Warm Springs avenue was an undeveloped country road to Kelly's Hot Springs, for which the street was named. Late in 1890, a natural hot water well was struck near the end of this historic district. Officers of a company which commenced to develop commercial geothermal power (in this case, for space heating) began to build mansions along Warm Springs Avenue, which soon replaced Grove Street as Boise's leading residential area. Construction of a street-car line in 1891 and of Boise's famous natatorium in 1892 gave this district a special distinction. Commercial geothermal power, aside from resort development of hot springs, represented an enterprise unknown anywhere at that time, although an Italian natural steam power plant followed in 1904. By that time, Warm Springs Avenue was entering two decades of major growth, in which areas between some of the original mansions were filled in. Natural hot water continued to bind this district together, while surplus heating was used in commercial structures downtown.

Substantial mining wealth was invested in building up this district, particularly by Ben Willson, a major Boise Basin operator. A number of Davidson family homes had a mining origin, followed by grocery and produce company investments. Prominent merchants, state and civic leaders, and a broad range of other business and professional people settled there. W. A. Goulder, a pioneer miner, newspaperman, and author was a Warm Springs pioneer as well.

The district is a cohesive neighborhood with few intrusions. It also includes several houses which are directly adjacent to Warm Springs Avenue on cross streets. They have been included because they are significant architecturally and tie more closely with Warm Springs Avenue than with the more modest homes on the adjacent streets. The district is well maintained and in excellent condition due to active preservation activities. Thus, it maintains a strong historic and architectural character.

A number of the buildings in the Warm Springs District were designed by architect J. E. Tourtellotte and the firm of Wayland and Fennell, two of the most prominent architectural offices in Boise at the time. In addition, noted architect K. K. Cutter of Spokane designed several homes in the district.

‡ Susanne Lichtenstein, Architectural Historian, Warm Springs Avenue Historic District, Ada County, Idaho, nomination document, 1980, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Bruce Avenue • Coston Street • Elm Avenue North • Haines Street North • Locust Street North • Maple Avenue North • Pierce Street North • Straughan Avenue North • Straughan Avenue South • Walnut Street North • Walnut Street South • Warm Springs Avenue East

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