The Most Complicated House Ever Built: Boise's Rammed Earth Home

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Elizabeth Jacox speaks with the crowd about John and Marjorie Fairchilds rammed earth home.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Elizabeth Jacox speaks with the crowd about John and Marjorie Fairchild's rammed earth home.

A home constructed almost entirely of dirt sits just above Boise's Hill Road. But unlike other earthen structures, including parts of the Great Wall of China, the Boise structure was used as a modern, if unorthodox, family home.

Army veteran John Fairchild and his wife Marjorie, a local librarian, spent 20 years building the home following World War II. John was a devoted tinkerer and after reading about rammed earth construction in a magazine, he set to work building the family home using the process.

Over the lunch hour Nov. 13, Elizabeth Jacox of TAG Historical Research and Consulting led a lecture at the Idaho State Historical Museum all about what Marjorie called "the most complicated house ever built."

"I did something that's dangerous in this job," Jacox told the crowd. "I fell in love with this house."

Jacox met with a member of the Fairchild family who supplied her with Marjorie's extensive photo album of the construction process. The completed home was built without a single nail, and its landscaping features sandstone blocks John salvaged from the original Boise City Hall.

The Fairchilds' home still stands, and is now the Boise Hillside Suites bed and breakfast.

The Idaho State Historical Society's Brown Bag Lecture series continues Tuesday, Dec. 11, with Annette Rousseau from the National Parks Service on the Hagerman fossil beds.

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