The Bishop's House is a three story home built in 1889 for the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho as the rectory for the clergy. The building was designed by James King, who also built the Boise City National Bank building, C. W. Moore house, and the Odd Fellows hall on Idaho Street. Originally the modest, wooden building stood on the north-eastern corner of the intersection of Idaho and Second streets in Boise. The land had been public land and was purchased by the first Bishop of the missionary district of Idaho, Daniel S. Tuttle, in 1867. The land itself cost less than the $325 paid to fence it in.
In 1899, the home was remodeled into the official residence of the Episcopal Bishop of Idaho and his family by the prominent Boise architect, John Tourtellotte. The remodel was commissioned by the new Episcopal Bishop, James B. Funsten, who would remain Bishop until 1918. Funsten, his wife, and four sons and daughter needed more room than the building could provide and had it expanded to include a parlor, living room, study, maid’s quarters, and several guest rooms. Guests who stayed in the home included “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Senator and Mrs. Borah. After the remodel, little of the original façade was visible and the building took on a Queen Anne-style look. The first floor exterior was covered by a stone veneer and the second story exterior was covered with ornamental shingles. The interior was remodeled and finished by local craftsmen who used Idaho wood. Bishop Funsten also oversaw the construction of St. Margaret’s School (which was later expanded to become Boise Junior College, now Boise State University), St. Luke’s Hospital, and St. Michael’s Cathedral.
The house remained the residence of the Episcopal Bishop of Idaho through 1972. The Bishops to live in the home are: Rt. Rev. Frank Hale Touret (1919-1924), Rt. Rev. Middleton S. Barnwell (1926-1935), Rt. Rev. Frederick E. Bartless (1935-1942), Rt. Rev. Frank A. Rhea (1942-1957) and Rt. Rev. Norman L. Foote (1957-1972). In the early 1970s the building became the first privately supported, non-profit senior citizen in Idaho.
Near Demolition and Rescue
In the mid-1970s the building was in disrepair and in danger of demolition. In order to save the building the “Friends of the Bishop’s House” organization was formed in 1975 by local preservationists, architects, historians, and citizens. St. Luke’s Hospital, the owner of the house, deeded the property to the group and the organization raised enough funds to move the 258 ton building slowly moved down Warm Springs Avenue to its current location on the grounds of the Old Idaho Penitentiary with the help of Bill Huckstep’s company specializing the moving of large residences. The group also raised enough money to perform an extensive renovation. In 1977, the renovation was recognized with an Orchid Award for ‘Restoration of a Building for Productive Use” by the Idaho Historic Preservation Council.
Currently, the building is popular spot for weddings, art exhibits, historical re-enactments, presentations, and social events. It is located between the Warden’s House and the Guardhouse on Old Penitentiary Road, facing the Old Idaho Penitentiary.