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Black History Month: Erma Hayman House preserving Idaho History

The House, which was built in 1907, was home to Erma Hayman, a 20th-century leader in the River Street community, near Downtown Boise
Posted at 5:38 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 18:43:16-05

BOISE, Idaho — The Erma Hayman House is a historically preserved property at the corner of Ash and River near Downtown Boise. The building was home to Erma Hayman, the city of Boise describes her as a 20th-century leader of the River Street community.

  • The community was home to many working-class Black and Immigrant families in the 20th century, carrying a negative stigma from outside of the neighborhood. The Erma Hayman house hopes to provide a different narrative of the neighborhood.
  • The house is hosting an event celebrating women of color who are change-makers in their community. The event is on March 28th at 5:30 p.m. at Trailhead in Boise.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story.)

Right on the corner of River and Ash, near downtown Boise, sits a tan single-family home, built from sandstone, like the Idaho Capitol itself.

Inside, a step back in time, into the life of the woman who once lived there.

"It's really hard to summarize someone who was so multi-faceted," said Tenisha Eastman-Dodson, the cultural sights program coordinator for the Erma Hayman House. "She was a lot of things, but to her neighborhood, she was a huge community advocate."

Hayman raised her family in this River Street neighborhood house and lived here until she was 102.

"She was an extraordinary person, but she also was a very regular person," Eastman-Dodson said. She continues, "And I think that not only speaks directly to the city's mission but it also empowers the community in Boise."

While new developments crowd the neighborhood, River Street was home to many working-class immigrant and Black families in the mid-20th century and it had a different reputation.

"Unfortunately there was a lot of stigma, from the outside in about the community that lived here, which was entirely inaccurate," Eastman-Dodson said.

Eastman-Dodson says part of her job is breaking down that stigma, and that starts with Ms. Hayman, who was a vocal leader in that community, advocating for change and resources in her neighborhood.

"But we also, now present-day, get to showcase where there were misinterpretations of this community, and we get to see how dignified they were, and how resilient they were, and how hard-working they were, and how communal they were," Eastman-Dodson said.

The House preserves history, but also serves as a museum for Black culture, the exhibition right now is called Afro Blue [by Boise artist Gracieux Baraka]. It highlights the spectrum of Black emotion.

"You see sorrow, you see happiness, you see joy, you see an empowered group of people. And oftentimes, this is a community of people whose stories are not represented or not heard from," Eastman-Dodson said.

From a bird's eye view, the neighborhood is changing. New developments and fewer homes.

That is why Eastman-Dodson says preserving the house means preserving Idaho's history.

"This is the last single-family house on its block. It's not a mansion, but it is very special in its own right, and I think that speaks volumes to people," Eastman-Dodson says.