The Secret Haunted History of Boise’s Bown House
You may have noticed the Bown House as you've driven on Parkcenter Boulevard in Southeast Boise. It's hard to miss because it looks so out of place. Located in front of the modern-looking Riverside Elementary School sits an old sandstone house built in 1879. Originally this was the home of the Bown Family. Joseph, a farmer, his wife Temperance, and their seven children lived in the house when they moved from Waterloo, Iowa. If you've ever been in a place with seven children, you know that it can be loud, which might be the reason the walls in the house are 22 inches thick.
In 1988, the Boise School District purchased the land to build what is now Riverside Elementary. What to do with the Bown House was a heavily debated subject. Because it was already listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Idaho Preservation Society stepped in to save the house from demolition, convincing the school district to use it for educational purposes. Today, the Bown House is run by the Assistance League of Boise. Their costumed tour guides take kids through the house and teach them about life in the late 1800s in Idaho. This is part of Boise School District's 4th-grade education. Nearly 2,500 4th graders take field trips to tour the house each year. The house is also open to the public on the first Saturday of each month from 1-4pm.
What isn't taught in the Boise School District curriculum is the complete history of the Bown House. In fact, there are parts of the Bown House's past that seem to be missing from all records. According to an article published in the Idaho Statesman in 1927, the Bown House was well known to be haunted. When the property was sold, the headline for the Statesman's story was, "Haunted House Changes Owners." No specific details were given, but from reading the entire article, it is clear that this property was known by Boise residents in the 1920s to have a ghostly reputation.
How did the reputation of the Bown House change to what we know today? Why isn't the house still known to be haunted? Did the ghosts move out, or are we no longer hearing the whole story? Were the thick walls to keep out the cold or something more sinister? Is this why the house is only open to the public for three hours per month? Have you or your children ever experienced paranormal activity inside the Bown House during a field trip?