Ben Eastman - A Charter Member of Boise Rotary

March 28, 2013


On March 29, 1917, a committee of twelve business and professional men completed the organization of the Boise Rotary Club and set the date for our first meeting in the OWYHEE HOTEL on the 28th of April with one hundred founding members who decided to meet for lunch on Thursdays. We continue to meet on Thursdays but we left the Owyhee in 1957.

Each year near the club’s anniversary we recall one of our founding members. This year we remember BEN EASTMAN who was one of Boise’s most prominent business men. Ben’s life and career is inseparable from the story of three pioneer families and with the Owyhee mines, the development of Boise, some of our most interesting buildings, with early success and final tragedy.

Ben’s father was HOSEA EASTMAN who left New Hampshire in 1861, with his brother Manse, looking for gold in California. They were not successful as miners so they worked as ranchers and moved to Oregon. Hosea and Manse bought a small band of cattle and left Oregon to sell the cows in Idaho but they lost the cattle from raids by the Indians. Finally, in 1864 they arrived in Silver City with only two dollars between them.

Along the way they met TIMOTHY REGAN who had emigrated from Ireland and joined the rush for gold in the new Idaho Territory. Timothy worked cutting timber for the mines while the Eastman brothers prospected for gold.

Both Tim Regan and the Eastman brothers were successful and by 1867 they had enough money to buy and improve the IDAHO HOTEL in Silver City.

Hosea and Tim began to court two young ladies, who were the sisters of Frank Blackinger, the owner of another nearby hotel. Hosea married MARY BLACKINGER in 1872 and Tim Regan married Rose Blackinger in 1875. Manse Eastman never married.

The stock market crash of 1875 ruined the east coast investors who lost most of their Silver City mines. Hosea, Manse, and Tim bought them out at bargain prices and operated them while the market recovered. Within four years, Hosea and Tim sold most of their mine holdings with huge profits and suddenly they were millionaires.

Their new wealth would not keep Hosea Eastman and Tim Regan much longer in Silver City. They moved to Boise in 1877 with their young wives and bought the OVERLAND HOTEL at the northwest corner of 8th and Main Streets. Manse stayed in Silver City to manage their properties. They immediately improved the Overland and began to acquire other businesses. The need for reliable water in the hotel led them to start a new city water company using the hot springs on Warm Springs Avenue. They called it the Boise City Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company. It was successful and they owned and managed the company through the rest of their lives.

Hosea and Mary’s first son was Frank, who was born in the Overland Hotel in 1878. Our founding member, Ben Eastman, was born in 1882 also in the Hotel. Hosea sent the boys to the Phillips Exeter Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and then to Yale. Ben graduated from Yale in 1902 with a degree in engineering.

While Ben and Frank Eastman were growing up and away to school, their father became a founder and president of the Boise City National Bank and was elected to the Boise City Council. Hosea then arranged for the hiring of John Paulson, a Montana architect, to design the Boise City Hall in 1891. Paulson then designed the famous NATATORIUM pavilion and hot water swimming pool on Warm Springs Avenue for Hosea.

Paulson also designed the EASTMAN MANSION which stood for sixty-five years at 1215 Warm Springs Avenue. With 26 rooms, it was the largest house in Boise and was Hosea’s and Mary’s home and that of their children and grand- children. Frank married Mabel Simpson in 1906 and they had three children: Hosea, Elizabeth, and their last child, Frank, Jr., who was born in 1911, after Frank, Sr., his father, tragically died in an automobile accident.

In 1894 Hosea demolished the Overland Hotel. In 1905, Hosea, Ben and Frank together built the Overland Office Building (EASTMAN BUILDING) on the same corner of 8th and Main. The sons’ pioneer father, Hosea, died in 1911. In 1913, Ben added three floors and a new 8th Street ENTRANCE LOBBY and he renamed it the Eastman Building in honor of his father, his brother Frank, and his Uncle Manse.

What did all of those Silver City people look like?

In 1907 the Blackingers, Regans, and Eastmans gathered for a picnic and posed for a picture. Standing to the left is Frank Blackinger. Next to him are his sisters Rose and Mary – Mrs. Tim Regan and Mrs. Hosea Eastman. Next is Hosea, himself, back in the shadows. The older lady with the cane is his sister-in-law, Mrs. Frank Blackinger. Next to her, the young man looking away, is Frank Eastman. Next to Frank, with the white hat, is Manse Eastman and the man at the far right is Timothy Regan. Sitting on the ground to the left is Lily Regan, Tim and Rose Regan’s daughter. Our Ben Eastman is the young man in the middle. And in the white dress on the right is Mabel Simpson Eastman - Mrs. Frank Eastman.

Ben Married EDITH KADING of Schyler, Nebraska in 1908. Two years later Edith and Ben had a son who died as an infant. Later they had two daughters, Mary and Margaret. Ben added more rooms to the Eastman mansion to accommodate Frank’s wife and children and his uncle Manse.

One of the rooms that Ben added was a sun room where this PORTRAIT OF MARY AND MARGRET, was taken. It is a photo worthy of Vogue and is a look at Boise’s society in the 1930’s. The photographer was Ralph Sigler who was the president of our club in 1932. Both of Ben and Edith’s daughters went to Stanford – where they met and married Californians. Neither they, nor Mabel Eastman’s children, lived in Boise and they retuned only to visit or to attend funerals.


BEN EASTMAN suddenly died in his home on Warm Springs Avenue on December 18, 1945. Edith continued to live alone in that huge house – all of her older Blackinger and Regan in-laws had also passed away. Ben’s Natatorium building was demolished ten years earlier after being severely damaged in a summer wind storm.

During the night of February 17, 1956, Edith Eastman died in the fire that burned down the big house at 1215 Warm Springs Avenue. All of it was demolished except the front garden wall of Boise Sandstone.

The Eastmans did not live to see the Eastman Building catch on fire in January 24, 1987, and be demolished after five years of neglect by the Boise Redevelopment Agency.

People and buildings may pass on but the land stays. The infamous hole in the ground that had been the Eastman Building is now the site of a much grander structure – the ZIONS BANK BUILDING whose eighteen floors will be the third notable building at Boise’s historic 8th and Main corner.

And good residential lots do not stay vacant forever.

About thirty years ago a fine old house on Idaho Street owned by the Eberle family was moved to the 1215 Warm Springs Avenue site. The front yard stone wall, built by Hosea Eastman one hundred and twenty- two years ago, is still there.

Presented by Charles Hummel, March 28, 2013