The City of Boise acquired the Hayman House, located at 617 Ash Street, in May 2018.
For a large part of the twentieth century, the River Street Neighborhood was a working-class section of the city, and housed immigrants from the Basque Country, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Japan, Russia, and elsewhere. By 1940, redlining had made River Street home to the majority of Boise's African American residents. Erma Hayman and her husband purchased their house in 1948, and Erma lived there until her death in 2009. Boise’s Hayman House is a cultural and historic resource.
River Street Neighborhood
Hayman House Public Art
Erma Andre Madry Hayman was born on October 18, 1907 in Nampa, Idaho. Before 1900, Erma’s parents, Amanda Chouteau Dodge and Charles Edward Andre, moved from Missouri to Montana—where Edward worked briefly as a miner—and then on to Idaho. The Andres had thirteen children, three of whom were born in Nampa. Erma was the twelfth of thirteen and played piano in the family orchestra. Edward and Amanda were farmers during their early time in Idaho. Later, Edward worked whatever jobs he could get in town and Amanda took care of the dairy farm. The Andres were one of only a few African American families living in Nampa.
Erma moved to Boise and lived on Grand Avenue in 1927 and 1928. On November 3, 1928, she married Navy Madry and the couple moved to Seattle for three years. Together, they had three children: Barbara, Jeanne, and Frederick. In 1935, Navy died of leukemia, leaving Erma a widow. She eventually married Lawrence Hayman in 1943, and in 1948, after racial discrimination prevented them from buying property elsewhere in the city, the couple bought the house at 617 Ash Street.
Erma worked hard her entire life, even as she faced systemic job discrimination. After years of cobbling together a living through various positions, she worked twenty years at Lerner’s, a women’s clothing shop on Idaho Street. Erma was known to provide and care for neighbors who were in need or who didn’t have family nearby, keeping them company and bringing them food. She was also a vital advocate for her neighborhood and its residents. She served on the River Street Neighborhood Council, acting as its chairwoman from 1973 to 1974, and fought to have a crosswalk and stoplight installed at the busy intersection of 13th and River streets.
Erma died on November 2, 2009, still a resident of her neighborhood at the age of 102.
Image: Erma Hayman car in the snow, Jeanne Madry–Young Collection, Boise City Archives MS078
The Hayman House, located in Boise’s River Street Neighborhood, is the last single-family home on its block. After extensive development in the area, the structure now stands on the corner of Ash and River streets in the Lover’s Lane Addition. The single story, one-bedroom residence was built in 1907, two years after the addition was platted and the year of Erma Hayman’s birth. In total, the modest house comprises approximately 900 square feet and is situated on two 26’ x 122’ lots located in the center of the block fronting Ash Street The small size of the property was typical of lots in Lover’s Lane. Maps show that various outbuildings—including an alley dwelling, an outhouse, and a garage—have existed on the homesite over time, though none of them remain today. After the house was built, it changed hands several times before Erma and her second husband, Lawrence Hayman, purchased it in 1948. Erma lived there until her death more than sixty years later.
The Hayman House features a hipped roof and recessed porch. Though its size was typical of the era in which it was built, its squared sandstone corners around the porch columns, windows, and doors were unique. The exterior of the house features a belt of sandstone that extends out just a bit to form natural windowsills. Few homes were constructed entirely from sandstone; however, this material is prominent in Boise’s architecture—it was used to build the Idaho State Capitol and numerous other structures from the time period. The Hayman house is particularly unique to its location since most of the houses that surrounded it in the River Street Neighborhood were built out of wood. Architecturally, the one-bedroom house has seen minimal alterations over its 100+ year life span.
Image: Hayman House, Jeanne Madry–Young Collection, Boise City Archives, MS078
For a large part of the twentieth century, the River Street Neighborhood was the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in Boise. A working-class section of the city, the neighborhood housed immigrants from the Basque Country, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Japan, Russia, and elsewhere, and by 1940, redlining had made River Street home to the majority of Boise’s Black residents. Most structures from the early days of the River Street Neighborhood have been lost, and like so many areas populated by immigrants, Black Americans, and members of the working class, its stories have gone largely overlooked, necessitating the preservation of the Hayman House and the history of this treasured community.
The original residents of the Boise Valley included Shoshone, Bannock, and Northern Paiute. Fur trappers arrived in Idaho in the early 1800s followed in the 1840s by the opening of the Oregon Trail. This mass migration resulted in violent conflicts between Euro-American settlers and Idaho’s Indigenous people. Mining and city building repeatedly pushed Native Americans to the edges of their traditional areas in and around the Boise Valley. The federal government promised the Shoshone and Bannock tribes land through treaties that it neither upheld nor ratified. Federal military troops began forcibly relocating the Boise Valley’s Indigenous people to the Fort Hall Reservation in eastern Idaho in 1869. This and similar campaigns fractured many Native American families and communities by dispersing them to different reservations far from each other. Around this same time, William Thompson and a gold miner named John McClellan joined several other families in homesteading land near the Boise River.
As Boise grew, citizens desired to build a railroad that would connect the city to regional and national transportation lines. Several housing additions were platted between Front Street and the Boise River, and tracks were eventually laid on the northern edge of the neighborhood along what is now Front Street, solidifying River Street’s status as the neighborhood on the “other side of the tracks.” Many early residents in the area, including Basque, Greek, and Croatian immigrants, and a few African Americans moved in during a population growth spurt between 1900 and 1920.
In the early 1940s, the military invested in the development of a large air base in Boise known as Gowen Field. This resulted in an influx of men who trained at the base, and the entire city experienced a housing shortage. African American men who came to Gowen Field with their families, found homes in the River Street Neighborhood when they experienced housing discrimination elsewhere.
As the city entered the 1970s, the property between downtown and the river became more valuable. It was viewed as a “blighted” area and targeted for urban renewal. Many homes were razed and neighborhood streets were realigned and widened, including River Street. This drastically transformed the character of the area from a quiet neighborhood near the river to a busy thoroughfare. As demolition and redevelopment continue, so does the disappearance of the River Street Neighborhood’s historic fabric.
Why did the City acquire the Hayman House?
Tied into the goals of the City of Boise’s Cultural Master Plan, the preservation and interpretation of the 617 Ash Street property are critical components for representing those whose stories are often omitted from standard historical research. The home’s architecture also provides insight into stylistic and construction trends of the era and how these intersect with different demographic groups.
GOALS OF THE PROJECT
- Enhance and protect the Hayman House site as an identifiable cultural destination
- Inform the public about the history of the Hayman House, Erma Hayman, and the River Street Neighborhood with site improvements, public art, and interpretative signage
- Consider the larger picture of this cultural gem in downtown Boise and its relation to the Greenbelt, Library, historical museums, and other cultural landmarks
- Keep the site friendly, safe, accessible, interesting
- Reflect the diverse community voices of the River Street Neighborhood
PHASE ONE (2018-2020)
- Inform the public about the history of the Hayman House, Erma Hayman, and the River Street Neighborhood with site improvements, public art, and interpretive signage
- Stabilize house and site
- Establish public art projects on site for exterior interpretation
- Through ongoing neighborhood engagement and collaboration, identify short and long-term possibilities for site activation, public art projects, and historic interpretation that reflects the historic and contemporary experience of Boise’s diverse population including Black Americans and immigrants.
PHASE TWO (2020-2021)
- Exterior landscape construction and public art begin
- Preserve the house’s interior for a place-based, community-driven, fully-accessible cultural and historic resource
On June 16, 2020, Boise City Mayor Lauren McLean and members of the Boise City Council unanimously approved a $100,000 award to sculptor Vinnie Bagwell for the development and creation of public art at the Erma Hayman House, the former home of prominent African American community member, Erma Hayman, located in the historic River Street Neighborhood in downtown Boise. The purpose of the public art is to celebrate the life of Erma Hayman, who moved into the one-story residence located at 617 Ash Street with her family in 1948. Erma lived there until her death in 2009 at the age of 102. The artwork will be installed on the property’s North boundary on the South facing wall of the adjacent property’s (Ash Street Townhomes) parking garage.
Bagwell is a New York-based sculptor with an extensive background working in the public art realm. Her robust portfolio includes figurative and memorial sculptures that honor cultural legacies in public settings for both public and private institutions. Anchored in naturalism, her three-dimensional and low-relief sculptures are cast in bronze and bronze resin and often portray and elevate People of Color and other marginalized communities. Examples of her work include The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald (1996) in Yonkers, NY; Frederick Douglass Circle (2008) in Hempstead, NY; and the Immortals (2018) in Washington, DC.
Read the full announcement here.
The Hayman House advisory task force provides recommendations for the programmatic vision and outreach tactics surrounding the house, including guidance on the site’s future use, public art selection, historical and cultural context, and other community engagement strategies. A one to two-year commitment for members, this group's support and guidance are integral to the vision and opening of the Hayman House.
TASK FORCE MEMBERS:
Charles C. Taylor
Bill White III
- Located at 617 Ash Street
- Acquired in May 2018
- 900 SQFT
- Ongoing neighborhood engagement
- Site Improvements, Public Art, Interpretive Signage
- Public Opening: Estimated 2021
Learn more about the River Street Neighborhood with the River Street Neighborhood Digital History Project.
Contact us for more information: