State of Idaho Executive Residence
The State of Idaho has not had an official governor's residence since 2013. From 1947 to 1989, Pierce House, located at 1805 N. 21st Street in Boise's North End, served that role. From 2009 until 2013, the former home of billionaire potato and agribusiness magnate J. R. Simplot (1909-2008) and his wife Esther Simplot, served as the Governor of Idaho's official residence, although the house remained unoccupied. During this period it was officially known as Idaho House. Citing upkeep costs, the state returned the house to the Simplot family in 2013. The house was demolished in January 2016, although its iconic flagpole remains.
In 1995, the Idaho Legislature formed a Governor's Housing Committee and Residence Fund "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 to allow the Governor's Housing Committee "to accept grants, gifts, or donations related to a governor's residence."
The Simplot mansion
Simplot, at one time among the 100 richest Americans, bought 2200 acres of undeveloped land in the Boise foothills in 1947 for $5 an acre. In 1979 he built a Mediterranean-style villa on the land, located at 4000 Simplot Lane on the top of a prominent hill in what had become the Highlands neighborhood of North Boise, just above Bogus Basin road. Simplot gave the property to the State of Idaho on December 21, 2004 to serve as a residence for future governors after his own death, on the sole condition that a massive American flag continue to fly above the home. The 38-acre property included a (7,370 ft²) house and a (1,151 ft²) garage. The main level of the home consisted of two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a library, a main kitchen and caterer's kitchen, and a board room/dining room, while the upper level consisted of an office, bathroom, entertainment area and great room/formal dining room.
The house was visible for miles, and was dubbed "Fort Simplot" by neighbors who said it resembled a Boy Scout camp. A flag pole flying a 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." Simplot died in 2008. Beginning the next year, some state legislators suggested selling the home, using the proceeds to build a new mansion on state-owned residential property nearby.
Dirk Kempthorne, governor at the time of the donation, accepted Simplot's donation of 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 has declined to live in the mansion that his former father-in-law had built. 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.
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- Kruesi, Kimberlee (4 Jan 2016). "Simplot house to be torn down after failed donation to state". Idaho Stateman. Associated Press. Retrieved 9 Jan 2016.
- "Governor's Housing Committee". Idaho Department of Administration. State of Idaho. Retrieved 9 Jan 2016.
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- Mapes, Jeff (19 Jan 2009). "Idaho governor's mansion turns into a headache". Oregon Live. Retrieved 9 Jan 2016.
- "Simplot Family Says Boise Mansion to Be Torn Down". KTVB. January 4, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2016.