Simplot Hilltop Home Demolished


When I saw the news reporting the demise of the J.R. Simplot house on the hill overlooking Bogus Basin Road–and the entire valley, not only was I incredulous, but I actually felt a little empty.

It was empty for 10 years even after a group of influential Idahoans pushed hard to make it the official residence for Idaho’s governors and raised a hefty amount of cash to keep it running after Simplot donated the place to the state and moved into the Grove Hotel.

J.R. Simplot's favorite portrait made at the "Shack On A Hill." --David R. Frazier photo

J.R. Simplot’s favorite portrait made at the “Shack On A Hill.”
–David R. Frazier photo

Like J.R. himself, the house was a symbol of success. It commanded the best view in all of Boise and flew the biggest flag the potato king could find. It was known as “Ft. Simplot” during the “flag flap” when neighbors complained the noise from the flag kept them awake at night. Simplot solved the problem by building an even taller flag pole. Both the flag and the house came to be welcome sights from most any place in the city.

Based on news reports, it appears the flag will be the only remnant of the once iconic home to remain. Family members got the place back when the state decided in 2013 it would not be a residence for governors. The idea of a governor’s mansion is kind of awkward these days since Gov. Butch Otter was once Simplot’s son-in-law.

During a photo shoot for a national magazine, Simplot took me home for lunch. As we drove up the long drive he looked out at the acres of grass and complained, “I got brown spots in my lawn. Gonna have to drill a couple more wells I guess.”

When he fished the door key out of his pocket, he said, “People call this a mansion. It’s just a shack on a hill really.” That’s when he pointed out the elevator, the spectacular view, and invited me to share some “grub.”

We sat in the kitchen where I admired the exotic wood paneling. I asked if it was walnut and he responded by naming a wood from either Australia or South America declaring, “Stuff cost me damn near $1,000 a sheet.”

According to one report, salvageable items like appliances went where we all take our used stuff–The Idaho Youth Ranch. If those folks are smart, they should be able to command some top prices for things like “Simplot’s kitchen range and refrigerator.”

One little fact about the property which is “pure J.R.” involves taxes. Originally the place was within the Boise City limits, but Simplot got his legal boys to appeal to the Boise City Council to “de-annex” the parcel. He paid much lower taxes as a county resident.

Ada County assessor records show the now demolished house was valued at $797,000 and the land is worth $2.1 million.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Refresh the memory of those of us who have trouble remembering things. How much money came out of the tax payers fund to maintain this property while the State had control of it?

    Was there never any attempt to find a way to rent this property out for events? Or was there a stipulation in the donation agreement that it could only be used as a governor’s residence?

    What a waste of money it now is and “throwing” away that building is.

    I guess they could always build some kind of lookout/parking for one of the best views in the Valley. But then maybe the land will just be sold to someone who would build an even larger dream home.

  2. I worked for the ol’ boy for a few years – he was crusty, but it was always a treat to meet him face to face and shake his hand. He was a living legend. (And yeah, I know he has detractors – you don’t get to the top without stepping on a few people along the way, I s’pose.)

    Another “legend” about Fort Simplot… I heard that one winter he contacted ACHD and told ’em he’d buy ’em one more snowplow/sanding truck, if they’d always do his driveway first. (No reason to not believe it – that’s the way he worked.)

    When he was in his 90s, he frequented the exclusive Arid Club, where he was a long-time member. Played gin rummy down there. Once he parked his Lincoln Continental (license plates MR SPUD) in the handicapped stall. Mind you, this is a man in his 90s who could’ve easily qualified for a handicapped placard if he chose to… but he didn’t. They put a ticket on his car, for violating the handicapped space. He paid the ticket, but declared, “Hell! There aren’t any CRIPPLES down here anyway!” It’s probably good that he’s gone – he wouldn’t have fit well in our politically-correct 21st-century society.

  3. Shortly after the two bedroom house was completed, I was invited to lunch at Crane Creek. The windows there provided a great view of the house. My lunch sponsor said at the time, “Jack’s making a statement.” Yes, he was – and he did.

  4. Mad—Chik-Fil-A threw away two good buildings in Boise. No attempt to recycle. One at Broadway and Front (a Perkins) and one on Franklin near the mall (a Hooters).

  5. With people begging to be allowed to live in soggy tents in subfreezing, snowy weather, it seems a humanitarian crime to tear down a perfectly good building. This seems especially true since there is no other plan for the site except to continue flying an insanely expensive flag that needs to be discarded and replaced regularly, and maintaining the largest, most wasteful lawn in Boise. If I remember correctly, the mega-lawn demands a team of 7 people with mowers and weed-eaters working continuously all summer.
    On one hand, I am thrilled to see the giant phallic symbol at the top of the hill get destroyed, on the other I am saddened at the flagrant wastefulness of the rich folks who can tear down a perfectly good structure while their fellow citizens beg to live under tarps and in discarded tents.

  6. Eagle Writer
    Jan 6, 2016, 9:06 pm

    J Smith, Mr. Simplot could have lived under a tarp but he put his energies into building a business. A business that has employed many people and helped build Idaho’s and our nation’s economy. His story should be inspiring to your “soggy tent” crowd, but perhaps they missed that lesson in the free public schooling we provided to them.

  7. Eagle Writer, I like your message!
    All except the “free public schooling”.
    That has an anti-public school tone.

    But more importantly, nothing is free.
    We ALL pay for public schooling.

    JUMP is going to be another great Simplot addition to the Idaho life. Thanks to the Simplot Family, company employees, the foundation, the FARMERS, and to McDonalds for buying all those damn potatoes.

  8. Eagle Writer
    Jan 7, 2016, 1:37 pm

    Easterner, my reference was to those who piss away the knowledge and skills learned in schooling – which we all provided to them at no charge. It was not anti-public school but rather anti those who squandered their opportunities.

    It was in public schooling that I was taught about the “great men,” Ford, Carnegie, Harriman…men who created jobs, men who built us into the economic power we are. It was very motivating. And today, J.R. Simplot is one of those men.

  9. Just Saying!
    Jan 7, 2016, 4:07 pm

    Eagle Writer: I disagree. We need dopes, I just wish they could not vote.

    Socialism in America has provided such an easy path for so many the ‘knowledge and skills’ are not needed. Further, I contend the public schools are NOT providing as well as they once did. These days K-12 is more of a public babysitting service… promising to remove any flicker of light and producing only the highest quality wet noodles. CWI was invented to teach what used to be taught 8 thru 12… CWI has a huge washout rate thus producing wet noodles with student loan debt. Yeah!!!

    The silver lining is we now have enormous numbers of stupid people who struggle to count to ten… with student loan debt. Undeveloped pacified buckets of mush. Not retarded, just blank and ready for the simple orders of servitude. Bingo! This is exactly what is needed to take the low cost manufacturing sector back from the BRIC-M nations. I dare say many of these folks will literally work for food, video games, and loan forgiveness. America will rise again on the backs of these dopes. (we will have to tolerate low quality cars again though)

    As for Jack’s house. It’s sad to see his family didn’t produce a person who would carry on Jack’s legacy of community and World leadership thru capitalism. Boise is what Boise is because of strong men like Jack. Not because of slippery people like those running the city today.

  10. Jack was one guy who loved to gamble and he had a sense of when the odds were stacked on his side. He didn’t always win but won most of the time. His sense of risk is not found today.

    I hate to see that house go but paying taxes on an empty house makes no sense. Too bad none of the family members would not live there. The view alone is one of a kind.

  11. It was known as “Ft. Simplot” during the “flag flap” when neighbors complained the noise from the flag kept them awake at night.

    Ah, fond memories! I remember the letters to the editor in the Daily Paper. Some were whining about popping flag noise. The others, written by indignant patriots who probably lived out of earshot, said things like “Would they rather hear Russian tanks rolling through their neighborhood?!?” We can argue about ANYTHING, can’t we?!

    The flags are 30-by-50 feet, and back in the glory days, at least, they were replaced every six months. (I replace my 5-by-8 foot flag every couple years.)

  12. Silver City
    Jan 8, 2016, 3:55 pm

    Not sure how Jack loved that house, but he certainly loved the attention that house provided !

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: