Paul Revere's house becomes a memory

A phrase in an email from a friend of Paul and Sydney Revere’s hit like a blow.

“When they tore down the Boise Avenue house … ”

Tore down the Boise Avenue house? The Reveres’ longtime home on Boise Avenue was gone?

It was. They sold it in 2008 and moved to Branson, Mo., where Paul’s band now plays much of the time. The new owners demolished the house and filled in the pool in September. I hadn’t driven by for a while so the news was a surprise, to say the least.

A sad surprise. That wonderful old house and what it represented — reduced to memories.

It’s “a tremendous sense of loss and sadness” Sydney Revere said. “ … Sure we sold the house. But we always thought it would be there to at least drive by.”

To me, 2305 Boise Ave. was one of Boise’s most beautiful homes. Not in a showy way like a lot of upscale houses, but in its own, uniquely private way, it was a Boise treasure.

You could drive right by without knowing it was there. Tall trees and enveloping greenery on a tall, wrought-iron fence hid it from traffic on Boise Avenue. The only way in was through a gate with an entry code. If you weren’t expected and didn’t know the code, forget it.

“It was magical behind those gates,” longtime friend Valerie Crowe said.

The house was a long, white, two-story, with a red tile roof that reminded me of Boise’s Spanish Mission-style depot a few blocks away. Inside were dark wood floors and spacious living areas with floor-to-ceiling windows that let in the outdoors — with good reason. It was the backyard that was the glory of the place.

It really was magical — old trees, a pool with piano-key steps and an almost vertical, vine-covered hillside that climbed from the lawn to the Bench and shut out the world. The pool, classic statues and vivid blooms in potted plants complemented almost-tropical greenery. In that verdant seclusion, it was hard to believe you were in the heart of the state’s largest city. It was like being at a private resort.

“It was our private paradise,” Paul said. “Syd and I designed the pool and the yard and spent every minute we could there. Everyone loved that yard. Billy Bob Thornton couldn’t get over how nice it was.”

Boisean Larry Leasure and his wife Ilene thought it was nice enough that two of their daughters and a niece were married there, “with twinkling lights everywhere put up by Paul himself, and almost everyone ending up in the pool, including one bride!”

The house was built on the original Ridenbaugh estate. William Ridenbaugh was a 19th century irrigation investor for whom the Ridenbaugh Canal and Ridenbaugh Street were named. The Reveres found one of his wife’s button shoes when they dug their pool in 1986. The Ridenbaughs’ turreted mansion caught fire and was later demolished, making way for the home that for nearly 30 years would be the residence of Boise’s most successful pop star.

For newcomers and others who may be unfamiliar with them, Paul Revere and the Raiders had 23 consecutive hit singles in the days when rock was young. They starred in more than 500 episodes of a Dick Clark-produced television show. I can’t think of another Idaho group that has come anywhere close to having that kind of commercial success. Revere was Boise’s one and only rock icon.

I knew him slightly in the 1960s because two friends of mine played in his band. Later I interviewed him for People Magazine, in the days when it did stories about real people instead of celebrity gossip. But it wasn’t until the early ’80s at the Boise Avenue house that I came to know him as more than a musician. He was also one of Idaho’s best storytellers.

My first visit to the house, with then Morrison Center Director Fred Norman and late Statesman sportswriter Jim Poore, was one to remember.

Ostensibly we were there to try to talk Paul and his band into playing a concert at the Morrison Center. What actually happened was that he spent two hours regaling us with show-business stories — Wayne Newton tossing an expensive microphone (nightly) after pretending its cord was too short for him to reach out and shake fans’ hands, one of the Beach Boys throwing a potted plant from a high-rise window because his neurotic brother was afraid of it, etc. Jim and Fred and I were literally choking. None of us had ever laughed harder.

Paul may have saved me some broken bones that day. It was fall and the backyard and original pool were covered with leaves. We were walking across the lawn and laughing so hard at Paul’s stories that we weren’t paying attention to where we were going. If he hadn’t grabbed me at the last second, I’d have laughed my way to the bottom of an empty pool and a trip to the emergency room.

This was in the early 1980s. Paul had recently put the Raiders back together, rehearsing at the Boise Avenue house, to go back on the road after a long hiatus. He’d bought the house in 1979 and was then in the process of an extensive remodeling.

Sydney remembers the original architecture as “midcentury bomb shelter — little windows, small rooms … appliances, sinks and baths were either pink or powder blue. It was a monument to the era it was built. We wanted more of an open concept and a funky, Old World feel.”

The Reveres lived on the remodeled second floor. The west end of the first floor became an apartment for Sydney’s late mother, Rose Buschman.

How do I tell you about Rose? A native New Yorker, she had a New York accent and a New York attitude. I mean that in the best possible way. New Yorkers can be rude and pushy, but Rose was neither of those. New Yorkers also can be classy, funny, disarmingly straightforward, effortlessly likable. Rose was all of those.

The Reveres traveled a lot and liked having friends spend time with Rose while they were gone. The friends were the ones who got the better part of that experience. It was like spending time drinking wine and swapping stories with Lauren Bacall. In fact, Rose reminded me of Lauren Bacall. If they’d met, I’d bet anything they’d have become friends.

Rose’s obituary and picture are still on our refrigerator. A day seldom passes that we don’t think of her.

When I learned that the house had been torn down, I went by to have a look. The gate was locked and I was peering through the fence when a car pulled over and stopped. Its occupants had known the Reveres and Rose, and we spent some time reminiscing. They repeatedly mentioned happy times by the pool, which wasn’t surprising.

“Our favorite memories are of dinners by the pool with family and friends,” Paul said. “That, the weddings in the yard, decorating like crazy for Christmas … there are so many memories there. We spent the biggest part of our lives there.”

Now it’s gone — the house, the pool, everything but the landscaping cleared to make way for a new chapter. The Reveres still have a home in the mountains in Idaho, but nothing else could ever be like their Boise home.

I left a message for the new owners asking why they tore it down, but it wasn’t returned. My understanding is that they want to build a new house on the property. And as someone who spent way too many years remodeling an old house and wishing I’d torn it down and built a new one instead, I can understand that.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for those who loved the place.

When I think of 2305 Boise Ave., I’ll think of laughing at Paul’s stories, cozy evenings in Rose’s apartment and summer afternoons in that matchless backyard, enjoying the unique beauty of such a special place.

I wish the new owners well in their new home. But it’s memories of the old one that I’ll treasure.

Tim Woodward’s column appears in the Statesman’s Life section every other Sunday and is posted on http://www.woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@hotmail.com.

3 thoughts on “Paul Revere's house becomes a memory

  1. Before anybody built along there on Boise Avenue, I had noted that the area seemed unusual, maybe enchanted. Perhaps the water table was elevated at the base of the ‘bench’ and the climate was comparatively mild, protected by the hill. Dunno. The trees and shrubs simply volunteered .. it was green, not the surrounding, dead-cheatgrass grey. I wanted to build there myself. Only years later did I think of the fact that one would seldom get any sun. It seemed always to be shaded by the bench and trees.

    I was introduced to Paul Revere at the (Temporarily forgot its name) roller skatin’ place by the river. He had already begun wearing high-water leather boots and it worried me a bit that he might be one of those motorcycle gang fellows. No, he was polite. But he was broke. I had to buy the coffee while he told us of these great plans he had for some band of his that played at Kuna high school or someplace. I had seen a little of their stuff, thinking he used a hammer to play those three chords on the piano and I sure thanked God I was studying to become an engineer and would not starve like he was going to do.

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  2. You indicated that Revere’s house was on the site of the Ridenbaugh mansion. I thought that house was closer to Protest. Could you find the exact location of where the Ridenbaugh house was? I’ve tried to figure it out for years but could never find anything about the location. The photos show it on kind of a rise with steps coming down the yard. Thanks. Tim

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    1. All I know is that it’s something of a mystery, and that Paul thought his house was on the old site. Sorry, but I’m up to my eyeballs in writing scripts for a movie that will come out this fall and don’t have time to research this for you. Suggest you try Arthur Hart. If anyone would know, he would. It might even be in his book on old Boise homes at the library. Good luck.

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