Huston School Rejuvenation is a Huge Success!

Allen and Leigh Evans In Their Kitchen Showing Me the Recycled Floor Joists
Photo by Jaz Fagan

I met up with Allen and Leigh Evans, owners of Huston School, on July 29th, and they were kind enough to speak with me for about an hour. They showed me around the old schoolhouse, and I was truly impressed with all the hard work they have put into revitalizing a historical treasure that might have been lost had it not been for them.

Huston School History

Huston School is located on Homedale road outside of Caldwell near the Pride Lane intersection. It is located at the entrance to the Sunny Slope Wine Trail. The school and town were named after Ben Huston who homesteaded Huston, Idaho in 1911. It used to be quite a busy little burg as it was the main point of shipping for produce in and out of Canyon County.

At one time there was a streetcar that took the children from Huston to Caldwell for high school until 1924, Deer Flat Merc for shopping which stayed open until 2005, and a post office. Huston also had three churches at one point. The streetcar made the trip three times daily until the advent of the automobile making the streetcar obsolete.

About the Owners and the Journey to the School That Once Was

Allen and Leigh Evans are native Idahoans. They are both teachers that moved to the Portland, Oregon area. Allen was a music teacher, and Leigh was a stay at home mom until she undertook the wonderful challenge of teaching special education for autistic children. After their four girls had grown and left the nest, Allen and Leigh decided it was time to spread their wings.

Leigh’s father was a band director his entire life and was Allen’s main instructor in college. Allen plays trumpet and guitar, and Leigh plays the oboe. All four of the daughters all played different instruments, so they are a very musical family.

Allen Evans
photo courtesy of Allen and Leigh Evans

There is so much to see inside the remodeled interior. Everywhere you look, there are cool antique pieces of furniture that have been lovingly hand-picked by Allen and Leigh to enhance the appearance of this beautiful home. The kitchen is situated upstairs, and the panoramic view from the tall, sunshine lit windows, is amazing. Everything was still in process when I interviewed them, and it wasn’t quite finished. From my perspective, everything was very lovely. The kitchen is a cook’s dream!

Leigh is a collector and two of the hanging cabinets in the kitchen were obtained from a Restore in Boise. There are the cool spice rack and also an old seed cabinet with many drawers like an apothecary chest that is really neat! The seller would put their seed in the drawers and the customer would pick their seeds.

Allen’s grandmother that went to Huston School married Homer Skelton. They homesteaded a place over on Lonkey Road about three miles from the school where he had a walnut orchard. When he got older, he had his son, Allen’s father, take his walnut orchard down. He rough sawed the lumber and placed it in storage. Fifty years later it was still there and Leigh and Allen had some of the walnut fashioned into an island in the center of the kitchen. The legs are from the supports from their porch in Oregon.

A Very Cool Pull Out Shelf!
Photo by Jaz Fagan

Allen and Leigh have become experts at salvaging. The floor joists that held all the old knob and tube wiring were recycled into window sills in the kitchen and art room studio. One night Leigh had come out to check on the property, and there were people there looting some of the old knob and tube wiring. The guy asked Leigh if she wanted it to which she replied, “Sure since it’s already mine.”

The Birds Have Flown, What Now?

They were discussing retiring in Idaho. Allen’s mother passed in 2014, and they had gone out to The Orchard House on Sunny Slope Road to eat. Leigh had wanted to be closer to the Snake River, and they were talking about retirement. Leigh had wanted to be in this neck of the woods so to speak, so they decided to drive around the area. They saw the school and turned around to get a closer look at it.

Leigh had said, “I could so live in that place.” To which Allen replied, “Are you crazy?”

The following summer, they were at The Orchard House eating with their family. Allen’s mother, Margaret, was in the car with them, and they decided to take her by the school. She told them that her mother had gone to school there in 1908 when the school opened.

Leigh got interested in the place, especially after she found out that Allen’s grandmother had gone there to school. In the summer of 2015, Leigh and a friend started doing research about the school on the internet and found the owner. Leigh called him up and found out that the school was being sold at auction. It had been bought and sold a few times.

Leigh finally got ahold of the new owner in August or September of 2015 and asked if they could go look at it. He put a price on it that was too high at the time. Every time they came during spring break or Christmas Allen and Leigh would come and look at it.

“You can’t even wrap your mind around what it would take to do it.” Leigh said, referring to refurbishing the old school.

Very early in November of 2015, they got a phone call out of the blue from the owner. He told them he wanted to sell the school. He told Allen and Leigh that he was going to list it in a month, but he wanted to give them the first crack at it. He would sell it to them $1000 cheaper if they wanted to get it.

They called the bank, and only had a three-week turnaround, and the bank said that was very tight, but they would see what they could do. They used a home equity loan and paid cash for it around the first of December 2015. At the end of the day, they had their house on the market in Portland, and they ended up with no payment on the school. It was a Merry Christmas indeed for the Evans’ family.

They showed me documents from the school, including a document from Allen’s great uncle. They have report cards, awards of completion, and other old records. There was a list on the Teacher’s Report to Parents that were the children’s responsibilities that I found to be quite cute. Some of the records had unfortunately been lost in a fire.

Allen’s father-in-law lives with them and is helping on the remodel. He went to do some research for Allen and Leigh. There aren’t many records about Huston School. Allen thinks this is because it wasn’t a high school, which has yearbooks. Huston School was an elementary school which didn’t have yearbooks.

Leigh’s dad was doing some research, and he went down to the fire department in Caldwell. He asked the secretary if they had any records for Huston School when the fire burned up the school in 1991. She took him into the Chief’s office, and there was a great photo hanging on the wall. It was the Chief’s first fire. At the time they had apartments in the school and they think that oily rags in the laundry room were the cause of the fire.

Photo Hanging in the Caldwell Fire Chief’s office of the Fire at Huston School in 1991
Photo courtesy of Allen and Leigh Evans
Leigh’s Father
Photo by Jaz Fagan

Canyon County School District Forms

Before 1918 there was a wooden structure where the school now stands, and it was called Fisher School. It was named after a man that had several children, and he wanted them educated. He provided the materials for the building. The land was set aside and designated school property when they laid out the whole valley.

They erected the new school in place of the wooden structure. It opened in 1918 and that’s when Allen’s relatives went to Huston School. There were 14 of these small schools scattered all over the valley. They were first through eighth grade, and eighth-grade graduation was a really big deal. The graduates didn’t have a place to go to high school. They had to petition either the Caldwell or Nampa High Schools to be able to go there. By incorporating they were able to build a high school of their own, Valley View.

A School in Transition

Valley View eventually built West Canyon School, which is a mile from Huston School. Allen and Leigh met a man who was going to school at Huston when they closed it, Ron Platt, who is a local farmer. They pulled the truck up, and the kids carried their desks out of the school and put them on the truck and drove it over to the new school. When Ron attended Huston School in 1973, it was a fourth through sixth-grade elementary school. They closed the school, and at some point, it was sold at auction.

In 1984 or 85 a family bought it at auction and turned the old school into apartments. There were two apartments in the basement where the family lived. They had cut out some windows, including two where the courtyard is. The windows weren’t supported properly when they were cut out. Allen and Leigh cut out a window in the kitchen, and it, along with all the other windows, had to be steel-framed.

The original window openings were kept, only the window glass is new, and Leigh made all of the curtains. They had hung in their house in Oregon for 25 years. She used a copper pipe for the curtain rod with creative flair. The back door is the original door, and it was surrounded by windows, however, the engineers made them rebrick the windows for safety’s sake. The brick on the inside that is exposed is from the original building as well.

After the fire of 1991, when the roof was destroyed the school was abandoned. It had been bought and sold to people that were planning to do something with it. People had gone in and cleaned up parts of it, including all the burned-out materials. Allen and Leigh have taken 37,000 pounds of debris to the dump with their cargo trailer.

On the front of the building, you can see a semi-relief 1918 sign. The numeral 1 is missing, so it reads 19 8. They found out where the 1 ended up. It sits at The Chicken Dinner Winery. Allen had asked them to give it back to them, but they declined. They hope one day that the winery will decide to return it to its place at the school.

They did the first bit of work on the school in spring break of 2016. They had dreams of a residence and event center and went to work on it steadily and thoughtfully. They have a blog that gives a detailed account of the extensive work that they have done at

They have an exposed brick chimney in their bedroom, and you can see where the original wood-burning stoves once stood. There were four classrooms on the upper level, and there were four wood-burning stoves. There had, at one time, been coal heat. They think the first fire occurred in 1926 when the report cards said the school had a fire. They got away from the wood stoves and went to a coal-burning system. There were radiators, and the two tanks are still in the school. They cut one in half for planters in their courtyard, and the other is designed to catch rainwater.

Major construction started in the fall of 2016. Allen and Leigh had moved in the weekend before Christmas in the fall of 2018. It has been an absolute labor of love for them both. Leigh has often said that it is 100 years old and she wants to see it last for another 100 years and give it new life.

They have always been aware that a lot of people have very private and personal memories of the school. It isn’t unusual at all for people to stop in, ring the doorbell and ask about it. They always bring total strangers through their unique home all the time. They have been told so many precious stories.

A Labor of Love and Fond Memories

It wasn’t only a school, where the children spent eight years of their life it was also the center of community events. The farm ladies used to meet there. The postmistress from Huston had told Leigh that, and Leigh asked her if they still met. She said that they do, so Leigh told them to come back to the school for your meetings.

A daughter of one of the principals of Huston School and her husband stopped by. They had gone to school together and are still married after all this time. They also had a visit from the previous owners that had changed the school into apartments. Their mother had recently passed and they were overjoyed that the school was being so lovingly cared for.

Two brothers, one now living in Washington and the other in Arizona had stopped by. They had gone to school there, and one brother told Allen and Leigh when they showed him the basement, that he had held a little girls hand for the first time in that basement. As one can see, there are very important connections and fond memories associated with Huston School for some people.

The Basement and Leigh’s Dad Working
Photos by Jaz Fagan

The lights around the house are all modern and the library is quite lovely. It has a hidden door behind one of the bookshelves that go into the master bedroom. I think the courtyard is by far my favorite part of the house. It reminds me of something you would see in Venice, Italy. The only thing missing is a Gondola passing by the open-air windows with a Gondolier, passengers, and a little man playing a romantic song on a stringed instrument.

Leigh’s painting room is one of the last rooms they are finishing upstairs. It has all the marks of being inhabited by an artist. Leigh’s paintings are very lovely. They remind me of Thomas Kincade, the artist known best for his paintings of scenery dappled with beautiful light. Here is one that she is currently working on.

Photo by Jaz Fagan

The entire Evans family is artistic and creative, so it’s no surprise that this school turned into a home is so amazing! If you would like more information, or to arrange a tour, please contact Allen and Leigh at They have so many stories, and I could write many more paragraphs. For now I just want to thank them for their time and patience.

Houston School Photo by Jaz Fagan

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