State of Idaho Executive Residence
Located at 4000 Simplot Lane on the top of a prominent hill in the Highlands area of North Boise, the house is the former residence of billionaire potato and agribusiness magnate J. R. (Jack) Simplot and wife Esther Simplot. Simplot donated the house to the State of Idaho in November 2005 as a residence for future governors on the sole condition that a massive American flag continue to fly above the home. The property, located north of Hill Road off of Bogus Basin Road, covers 37.749 acres and includes the house (7,370 ft²) and garages (1,151 ft²). The main level of the home consists of two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a library, a main kitchen and caterer's kitchen, and a boardroom/dining room, while the upper level consists of an office, bathroom, entertainment area and great room/formal dining room.
The Governor's Housing Committee and Residence Fund were created by statute (Idaho Code 67-455) in 1995, with the Fund being established "for the purpose of providing a Governor's housing allowance and/or the acquisition, construction, remodel, furnishing, equipping, or maintaining a Governor's residence". In 1999, the Legislature amended Idaho law (Idaho Code 67-455A) to allow the Governor's Housing Committee to accept grants, gifts, or donations related to a governor's residence.
The Mediterranean-style villa was built by Simplot in 1979. The house is visible for miles and was dubbed "Fort Simplot" by neighbors who said it resembled a Boy Scout camp. The flag pole that carries the 30-foot-by-50-foot flag was erected in 1980. Neighbors soon complained that the noise from the flag disturbed their sleep at night; Simplot responded by raising the flag pole to 100 feet. A 1983 mudslide from the slopes of the hill caused $20,000 in damage to an adjacent home. In the 2006 gubernatorial election, Otter's Democratic opponent, Jerry Brady, called the house "too gaudy for a governor". Some state legislators have suggested selling the home, using the proceeds to build a new mansion on state-owned residential property nearby.
Dirk Kempthorne, who was governor at the time of the donation, accepted the $2.1 million property in 2004 and launched a $3 million private fund raising effort to renovate the interior. He also planned to sell naming rights to various rooms to make the house a showcase for Idaho industry, but Kempthorne resigned to become Secretary of the Interior and the plans were never implemented under his successor, Jim Risch. The state's current governor, Butch Otter, is a former executive with the Simplot Company; he divorced the Simplots' daughter, Gay, in 1993 and refuses to live in the mansion that his former father-in-law owned. In January 2009, it was reported that a fund-raising campaign for the mansion had "sputtered" and that the cost of maintaining the lawn, $100,000 a year, was depleting funds. Otter and his current wife, Lori, live on their ranch west of the city near Star and receive a state housing allowance of $58,000 per year, causing controversy; the Idaho Statesman editorialized that "It is ridiculous to subsidize his living expenses." Otter said he would stop taking the allowance once the state finishes minimal renovations, but would still not live there.
- The Governor's House
- Idaho Statesman.com - photo gallery - Simplot house
- Idaho Statesman.com - other options for governor's residence - 19-Jan-2008
- Aerial photo and topographic map from USGS via Microsoft Research Maps