Dan Everhart almost didn't want to do this interview. Not that he has anything to hide, but the president of Preservation Idaho is worried, in a good way, about the overflowing interest in ArchWalks in Boise. Lately, the guides for these tours of Boise's historic architecture have found that they can't schedule enough of them to keep up with demand. A recent tour of the Boise Depot Bench neighborhood, normally limited to about 35 attendees, drew nearly 100 architecture buffs looking for a chance to soak up some brick-and-mortar knowledge. Everhart spoke with BW about unplanned tours of local living rooms and why he prefers flip-flops while on the job.
BW: How did the ArchWalks get so popular?
Before they reformatted, the Idaho Statesman used to have an Idaho History section. And I would get them to publish a little blurb about the walk. And a few people showed up. The very first walk I did, we had about 45 people show up, which was good. I was really happy about that.
And the last walk of the summer they published a photo of Harrison Boulevard along with the blurb, and we had something like 70 people show up to take this walk. Well, the guide, she was just screaming at the top of her lungs. We had this huge crowd of people walking down Harrison Boulevard, traffic buzzing by. So that was it, I said, we have to advertise it with some sort of cap. [There is now a reservation system.]
Do you ever go into the homes you're looking at? Or get invited in?
That's happened more than once. That crowd, with 65 or 70 people on Harrison Boulevard, as we were walking past a house, we stopped to talk about it, and it was under construction at the time. We try to be respectful, and stay off the grass and all that. And the guide goes, "Well, I think they're under construction, so I think we could gather around a little more." So people kind of inched onto the grass. So the guide has her back to the house, and she's talking to the crowd, and this younger gal walked out of the crowd, walked up the front steps, and I'm screaming in my mind, thinking, "What are you doing?" She started fiddling with the front door. She reaches in her pocket, gets a key, and opens the front door, and a man steps out from the crowd, and says, "I don't mean to interrupt, but this is our house, we're doing remodeling, and you're more than welcome to come in." So 65 or 70 people tromped into this house at the drop of a hat. It was great.
Do you think the recent interest in these tours has anything to do with the growth in Boise, that there is a sense that Boise is changing?
I don't think that's a stretch. There is a certain backlash. This is among the older generation of Boiseans who feel like, "This is our Boise." Not that that's bad, but there is that perceived or real feeling out there, whether it's expressed in that way or not.
I notice you're wearing flip-flops. Do you wear them on the ArchWalks?
Typically. It's very casual, and very hot. I usually wear pants, but that's because I introduce myself as the president of Preservation Idaho. I want to provide a good impression of the organization. You have to present yourself in the way you want to be perceived. If I wore my baggy jeans and my skater clothes, I'd be perceived in a much different way than I want to. But the flip-flops, they're pretty constant throughout the summer.