The History of the Simplot Mansion

The Simplot home was an icon in Boise before it was recently demolished. It sat atop a giant hill, overlooking the city, with the flag flapping in the wind at its side. The house was a very significant part of Boise’s history, and without it, Boise almsimplot2ost feels like a different city, and would be, if the house had never been.

The house was built for J.R. and Esther Simplot in 1979. J.R. was a potato farmer who later became ranked as the 89th richest man in America in 2007. Boise may have had humble beginnings, but the Simplot’s legacy created grandeur in little Boise City. Their home is known by locals of every age. The house is extremely eclectic although it is technically classified as a Mediterranean-style villa. Many claim it looks like a Boy Scout camp. After living in it for 25 years, the Simplots sold the house and the top part of the hill to the state in 2005. It was established as the official governor’s house in 2009 and stayed that way up until demolition. Only state officials were granted permission of use.

The Simplots donated to the state the 7,370 square foot house, 1,151 square foot garages, and 37.749 acres with one condition–that the 30-by-50 foot American flag continue to fly above the home. Many of the neighbors disliked the flag when it was originally added, as the flapping kept them awake on windy nights. Rather than getting a smaller flag (since this flag is the largest in Idaho), Simplot simply made the flagpole higher by 200 feet. This was high enough that it muted the noise, and the flag stayed. simplot1

Although much of the house was original, the state did make some changes. There was an addition for a caterer’s kitchen adjacent to the original kitchen during the remodel in early 2000. Much of the wood paneling was original in the home; however the state did clean it and polish it when the house was donated. The home’s eclectic style creates focus points throughout that lead to an airy, open home with beautiful natural light. The main entrance with its grant foyer was an amazing entrance to the home and the curved doorways have a lovely Spanish feel with a yellow paints that takes on an adobe-like aura.

The main level of the home consisted of two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, library, main kitchen and caterer’s kitchen, and a boardroom/dining room. The upper level consisted of an office, bathroom, entertainment area and great room/formal dining room. This upstairs room was able to house more than 100 guests for events of the state. The house was used for formal meetings of state, and citizens were not allowed to rent the home for any reason. Although no governor has lived in the house, there were private quarters blocked off where the first family would live and visitors were not permitted. There was also an elevator running up to the second floor, which was convenient for elderly members of the state, and Simplot also made use of this during his later years.

simplot4The house was not the only interesting thing on the top of the hill.  Coming out of the house was a large water fountain/waterfall that runs down to a large concrete pond. There were stairs leading down to the pond, where many ducks still probably reside. The waterfall was not often operating, as it cost a lot to provide water pumping for that large of a fountain. The back porch not only overlooked this wonderful pond, but also the whole city. It would be a fair assessment to say that Simplot had the best view in all of Idaho.

Simplot had very good foresight, established when he bought the hill in 1947 when the price was down, and was able to build this large home in 1979 on the land that was now worth so much more. Simplot’s 2,200 acres are now prime Foothills residential land with an average value of up to $40,000 an acre. His 1947 price: $5 an acre. Obviously, the times have changed, and Simplot made a very wise decision with his purchase. Given how significant Simplot’s contribution to Idaho history is, the house and hill it sat on is an important landmark in Boise. simplot3