O’Farrell Cabin History
Early Boise homes were built within the townsite by families with names now better recognized as North End and East End streets: O’Farrell, Logan and Pierce. The O’Farrell cabin, built in 1862, now stands on Fort Street near Lincoln School. The Coston cabin, originally located east of town; and the Pierce cabin now stand with the Mayor Thomas E. Logan house next to the Idaho State Historical Museum in Julia Davis Park. The O’Farrell Cabin site was dedicated in 2002.
Even before Fort Boise was raised, soldier John O’Farrell constructed a simple log cabin for his 17-year-old bride and it eventually became home to 7 children. The O’Farrell Cabin, regarded as Boise’s first, stands in its original location at 4th and Fort streets. It later was used as Boise’s first school and for its first Roman Catholic Mass.
The cabins, like most early Boise homes, were made from logs cut from the nearby cottonwood trees which line the river. Cottonwood logs, while not as sturdy as the pine found over the ridge, required only a short haul to the townsite.
In 1863 a U.S. Army post was built on the 67-acre site of Fort Boise to defend travelers between the fledgling supply center on the Boise River and the rich new mining settlements in the nearby Rocky Mountain foothills.
By 1957, the D.A.R. could no longer maintain the cabin and ownership passed to the Sons and Daughters of the Idaho Pioneers. In 1958, they installed a protective roof structure over the entire cabin, placed iron bars on the windows, made other repairs and erected the monument on the west side. The Sons and Daughters maintained the cabin for a number of years. Eventually, the city of Boise accepted ownership of the cabin. In spite of the protective roof, the cabin continued to decay.
The Boise City Historic Preservation Commission became aware of the cabin’s condition and completed a preliminary restoration study in 1979. A restoration report was funded by the Idaho Heritage Trust in 1995. Charles Hummel, along with the Columbian Club organized a fund drive, which was augmented by a major contribution from the City’s Millennium Fund. Sufficient funds were available by 2001 to fully restore the now heavily deteriorated 138 year-old cabin and the work was started under the direction of the Boise Parks & Recreation Department.
IN 2002, at a cost of $51,000, the cabin was renovated and freed from its protective veil, barred windows and chain-link fence. New roof shingles faithful to the original, numerous replacement logs and floorboards, new chinking and paint has returned the cabin to its condition in 1912. Careful research uncovered the earliest paint colors used inside and on the door and window casing.
The cabin retains 85% of its original construction and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. It is the oldest family home in the city and one of Boise’s most important landmarks.
For more about the O’Farrell Cabin and the O’Farrell family click here