How an Inspirational Idaho Family Saved an Abandoned School House
How familiar are you with Huston, Idaho?
Part of Ben Huston’s homestead in 1911, the little town of Huston sits between Homedale Road and Karcher Road west of Chicken Dinner Road. According to the Idaho Press-Tribune, the little town was known for being a shipping hub for produce grown in Canyon County. Residents used to be able to easily reach Caldwell by riding a street car that ran daily until the mid-1920s. After the streetcar was taken out, the town shrunk significantly in size until its last business closed its doors in 2005.
Two of Huston’s most well-known buildings are standing today. The post office and a now refurbished Huston School. The school itself closed in the 1970s but wasn’t entirely abandoned. According to an Idaho Gazette article, someone had bought the building and converted it into apartments in the mid-1980s.
In 1991, a fire broke out in the apartments, destroyed the roof and the building was abandoned. For many years, it was a haunting and fascinating site that people passed at the corner of Homedale Rd and Pride Lane on the way to the Sunnyslope Wine region.
In fact, that’s kind of how the current owners found it. Both Allen and Leigh Evans were originally from Idaho. According to their website, school and family took them away from the Gem State for a bit. Both of them established careers as teachers in the Portland area. Allen taught music. Leigh was a stay-at-home mom but got into teaching special education after the couple's daughters had grown up.
The family found themselves back in Canyon County after a death in the family. They drove past the school on the way to eat at The Orchard House and Leigh told her husband she could see herself living there. At the time, the couple was close to retirement. Through a lot of research and persistence, they got the opportunity to buy the school in late 2015. The seller knew they had been interested in the property and made them an offer to buy it at a slightly discounted price before putting it on the market. The rehab project started in 2016.
Today, it’s their family home and it took a lot of effort to bring it back to life. There's no doubt that the multi-year project was a labor of love considering the school had a special place in the Evans family history. Allen's grandma and her siblings went to school there after it opened in 1918.
It would be nearly impossible to explain everything the couple has done to the school to make it a cozy place for their daughters and grandkids to visit. Even with how busy the project kept the couple, Leigh did an incredible job sharing their story on their “This Old School” blog. Not only did she keep track of what renovations were being done and which parts of the original building can still be seen today, but she also shared dozens upon dozens of photos between when work started in 2016 and when they hosted a public open house attracting more than 400 interested guests in 2019. If you're into home remodeling and restoration projects or are a history buff, it's so worth checking out!
Before the renovations, a local violin and piano duo, 92 Keys, shot a hauntingly beautiful music video for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” In a description of the video shoot, 92 Keys founder and pianist Trevor Loucks explained that he had seen pictures of the school on a Facebook post of abandoned buildings in Idaho. He wanted to shoot there so badly, but didn't know who owned it. He eventually found the Evans family through Google searches and reached out to Allen. Loucks had no idea that Allen used to be a music teacher before the two men spoke!