A House of Stone, a Heart of Gold 

The amazing life (and home) of Erma Andre Madry Hayman

Erma Andre (circa 1920) played piano in her all-family orchestra; and built in 1907, the sandstone house still stands at 617 Ash Street.

Erma Andre (circa 1920) played piano in her all-family orchestra; and built in 1907, the sandstone house still stands at 617 Ash Street.

Apart from some decades-old rose bushes, which will soon bloom for another season, there is no sign of life at 617 Ash Street. But that's not how Richard Madry sees it.

"This was my home," he said, giving Boise Weekly a brief but very personal story of the single-story sandstone house. "I came here before I was 2 years old and lived here for the next 20 years."

The 900-square-foot building, which was once surrounded by rows of wood homes in a densely-populated neighborhood, now sits by its lonesome. Madry looked out on the backyard and framed a section of the property with his outstretched arms.

"We had all kinds of vegetables and flowers back here and three gorgeous fruit trees," he said. "Right across River Street, that's where the city's first fronton [handball court] was built for the Basques. And over here [Madry swung his arm to the north and pointed to where Giraffe Laugh day care is now located], that's where the local grocer was located."

Madry recalls his childhood neighborhood well, but the centerpiece of his existence—and in many ways just as firm as the stone house in which she lived—was his grandmother and primary caregiver, Erma Hayman. She lived at 617 Ash St. until she was 102 years old and, shortly after her death, Madry sold the house and property to the Capital City Development Corporation with hopes of keeping the structure in its original foundation.

"I know they'll do the right thing," said Madry, "and it just so happens that this year there will be a lot of activity here, and they'll have some big decisions to make."

One of CCDC's first decisions was to allow a precedent-setting archeological dig—part of a University of Idaho field school set to begin at the end of May and run for the following six weeks.

"Hats off to our board," said CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle. "The timing of the proposal for the archaeological dig was pure coincidence. We're going to need to make a decision on the house, after some good due diligence, but in the meantime, our board smiled upon the archaeology project. There might not be another chance quite like this."

It's not every day that archaeologists and CCDC cross paths, but when it came time for historians and Boise's urban renewal agency to consider the life of Erma Hayman and her stone house, the exceptional was indeed possible.

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