Research the History of Your Home

If you’ve been curious about the history of your old North End home, there are a lot of resources in Boise and on the internet to track down some details. The most important facts to know are the date your home was built and the name of the original owner. With that information in hand, you’ll be able to discover the story of your house and the people who have called it home. –The North End News, Autumn 2020

Here are your first steps:

Idaho Statesman
The daily newspaper often reported on the construction of a dwelling. Structures were usually mentioned by their names, owners, architects, or developers, but not by address. Idaho State Archives; Boise Public Library (see contact info below)

Sanborn Maps
These maps provide in-depth detail about neighborhoods, including every parcel and the shape and location of the building on it. Looking at maps from different years can show when your house was built and how the neighborhood grew. Idaho State Archives & www.loc.gov

Polk City Directories
These directories date to 1891. Until 1926, the directories are listed by name. Beginning in 1927, you can also search by address. Once you have found the name of a resident, the directories will allow you to trace the length of their residence at the address. Idaho State Archives

US Census
The census is arranged by address and will reveal the name of the residents at a certain date as well as age, occupation, place of birth, and other information. Idaho State Archives

Ada County Assessor
Here you can find deeds and ownership transfers. AdaCountyAssessor.org

Survey Forms
These often include an approximate date of construction, information on previous occupants, and photos from the 1990s (which help ascertain changes to a property). State Historic Preservation Office

NENA archive
Dating to 1976, this collection includes notes and documents since the founding of the neighborhood association, as well as every copy of the North End News. The newsletters are available online; the rest can be found in person. BSU Special Collections

The Idaho Collection
The Boise Public Library’s Marge Ewing Idaho Room, on the 3rd floor of the main library, houses a large collection that includes nonfiction books, documents, newspaper clippings, city directories, and maps. Items cannot be checked out, but a librarian can help you find what you need. Boise Public Library

Historic Photos
The Idaho State Archives has a huge photograph collection. Many are available online, but some can only be found at the Merle W. Wells Research Center. Idaho State Archive

Boise Archive
In addition to storing municipal documents and history, the city archive also includes some special collections, including documents from the “Save Hulls Gulch” campaign of the 1990s. Contact the city for research assistance or to view the archives. City of Boise

Genealogy
You can find previous residents using old Boise City Directories on Ancestry. com, back to 1927, by entering your home’s address. A lot of genealogy websites, such as LDSgenealogy.com/id, can provide information on residents and their families. Ancestry.com

Idaho Architecture Project
Many homes and buildings have been documented by professionals and volunteers throughout the state. If your home isn’t there, you can create an entry for it by clicking the “Add A Building” button. IdahoArchitectureProject.org

Additional Tips for the North End

  • Harrison Boulevard was known as 17th Street until 1891. But it wasn’t until 1918-20 that the streets west of Harrison were renumbered. For example, if you live on 19th Street, it was formerly known as 18th Street.
  • The archivists and librarians in town are available to help with your research. If you provide the basic information, they can track down relevant documents, photos, and other resources. Give them a call or send an email with your questions. At some sites, you can make an appointment to visit their research rooms, as well.
  • It is important to identify the architectural style of your home. Most of the houses here fall into the “vernacular cottage” category, which speaks to the working-class roots of the North End. NENA President Mark Baltes suggests the book “A Field Guide to American Houses,” by Virginia and Lee McAlester.
  • Other useful resources may include National Register Bulletins published by the US Department of the Interior, as well as publications by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The City of Boise’s online property viewer includes old aerial maps.
  • “History of Idaho,” written by Hiram French in 1914, includes biographies of prominent residents and is available to borrow from the library.

Resources for Research

These local facilities can assist you with your research. Call, email, or visit their websites to receive personalized help or to make an on-site appointment.

Boise Public Library
715 S. Capitol Blvd.
(208) 972-8255
BoisePublicLibrary.org/programs-services/ask-a-librarian

BSU Special Collections & Archives
(208) 426-1674
archives@boisestate.edu
archives.boisestate.edu/nena

City of Boise Archives
Alan Butcher
abutcher@cityofboise.org
BoiseArtsAndHistory.org/programs/archives

Idaho State Archives
2205 Old Penitentiary Road
(208) 334-2620
history.idaho.gov/archives
public.archives@ishs.idaho.gov

State Historic Preservation Office
(208) 334-3861
210 Main Street
History.idaho.gov/location/shop