Monday, September 22, 2014

Does the Steunenberg home that burned in 1913 live on?

As we know, the home of Governor Frank & Eveline 'Belle' Steunenberg, near the corner of 16th & Dearborn in Caldwell, ID,  burned in 1913. I do not know the circumstances of the 1913 fire or if anyone was living there at the time. The home was not rebuilt but apparently some salvageable parts remained.
Frank W. & Francis, two of the children of Belle & Frank Steunenberg, sitting on the edge of the front porch. This home was located at the corner of 16th & Dearborrn, Caldwell, Idaho. Photograph from JTR Collection and The Martyr of Idaho.
After Frank's assassination on 12/30/1905, Belle reportedly lived in a smaller home in Caldwell for a few years. We believe that home is the one at 3410 South 10 Avenue, Caldwell, Idaho.  It's hard to view through the trees on Google maps but you can see part of the house (zoom in) and the address on the fence to the right of the driveway. The current resident, Sandy, is interested in finding out more about the homes history and so am I. If anyone has information or early photographs taken of the inside or outside we would sure like to know about it.

At some point, Belle left Caldwell and lived in Walla Walla, WA for a time (late 1910's - early 1920's perhaps?) and other locations in Washington, Oregon, etc., to be near family and/or Adventist communities. Eventually she headed to California where some of her children had moved. The post assassination timeline regarding Belle's movements is a bit murky.  Maybe other kinfolk or historians can shed some more light on it.

Looking at the front gate leading up to the circular porch to the entry door and the prominent second floor turret. This is not the gate through which Frank entered when he was killed. He came through the side gate and up the path to the right. The above photograph is available from various sources and publications, including the JTR Collection, ISHS, Early Caldwell Through Photographs.
Reportedly, it was the very front portion of the home, the entry area/room and the turret, that survived the 1913 fire and may have been used in the construction of another home...or homes.

1406 Everett, Caldwell, ID. I have lightened up the picture a bit as the original was rather dark.
JTR Collection
This is the house at 1406 Everett, Caldwell (Goggle map) that we believe was built from a portion of the salvaged Steunenberg home. Reportedly, it at one time had a second story, including the turret from the Steunenberg house. Interestedly, a second story fire destroyed the upstairs beyond repair. The roof was added and the home remains today much like seen above in this 1965 photograph. Any earlier photographs taken pre-fire and showing the turret would be quite a find.

Written on the back of the photo above by my father during a visit to Caldwell for a Steunenberg reunion.
JTR Collection
I vaguely remembered seeing the above home on a Steunenberg reunion bus tour of Caldwell (here's a later 1977 reunion). Glad I found this photo with identification written on the back by my father to reaffirm its existence.

1417 Fillmore Street, Caldwell, ID. Photo courtesy of Jackie Mills.
Recently I received an email from Janet Mills, a blog reader, who indicated her aunt had owned a home at 1417 Filmore, Caldwell Idaho (Google map). According to Janet, the home was originally located at a different nearby location and moved to Fillmore street sometime later. The current location is in the same neighborhood as the 1406 Everett home.

Janet had a strangely similar story to the house on Everett, indicating this home as also having been constructed utilizing some remnants from the burned Steunenberg house. This home reportedly had an outside stairwell that led to a second story consisting of a turret. And yep, it too had a fire that destroyed the upstairs. The home was recently sold and an inspection of the attic showed evidence of a previous fire. Adding to the interest is that Janet's aunt, who lived here for quite a number of years, was Elaine C. Leppert, a local Caldwell librarian and co-author of Early Caldwell Through Photographs. As I told Janet, I have three copies of the book, one that remains an arms length away from where I am typing this blog post. I use the book very frequently for reference when researching Caldwell photographs.

Detail of the turret on the original Steunenberg home at 16th & Dearborn.
 Above is a closer view of the turret with a small balcony and a door to the inside room.

From another photo of 1417 Filmore Street showing left front porch/corner area. Courtesy of Jackie Mills.
Notice the window on the left is at a 45 degree angle rather than a 90 degree corner.

Detail of the left front corner/porch area of the Steunenberg home.
The Steunenberg home, with the circular design of the front porch, entrance and turret, had a number of windows set at similar angles. A little hard to see, but scroll up and then down between the windows on the left side of the Steunenberg house and the Filmore Street home above it. You can make your own comparisons.

So what does all this mean? Two homes, same neighborhood, both allegedly built with some salvaged pieces from the front of the Steunenberg house, including the second story turret and both having had fires that destroyed the turrets, upstairs and leaving both as single level homes.

So one or the other (or maybe both?) of these homes have or had a piece of the original Steunenberg residence. Early photographs of either house showing what allegedly were second story turrets would certainly be helpful. I am hoping someone has more information or photos.

I will no doubt scout out these homes a little closer when I visit Caldwell again—maybe even knock on a couple doors. Perhaps the current residents will see this post and contact me directly. Does the partially burned Steunenberg home equate to two homes, two turrets, two fires?  A lot of coincidences. If no more information surfaces, we may need to call in the local Idaho Ghostbusters on this one. Something fishy is going on and taking a piece of the Steunenberg house from where Harry Orchard prowled the grounds before brutally killing Frank may not have been a good idea.

Should you know and/or find other information about any of the homes mentioned above, please click below on "comments" to this post or email me privately at: john.t.richards@sbcglobal.net
  

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