MERIDIAN — One of Meridian’s historic landmarks is up for sale.
The Halbert Fletcher Neal House, 101 W. Pine Ave., Meridian, was originally owned by Meridian’s first and only resident doctor in the early 1900s, Halbert Fletcher Neal, and has since become an icon of old Meridian.
It is one of six Meridian homes on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Mark Breske, marketing and communications officer for the Idaho State Historical Society.
The house was built in 1905, 12 years after the settlement of Meridian was founded.
The house is “significant for its historical associations with one of early-day Meridian’s most outstanding families, and for its architectural uniqueness as one of Meridian’s only Queen Anne houses,” the National Register’s statement of significance said.
The house was bought by its current owners Richard and Catherine Rakow in 1980 and is on the market for $450,000 through Realtor Brandi Van Etten with Group One Sotheby’s International Realty.
Renovating the house
Richard and Catherine Rakow first noticed the house while on a jog. The house was empty with some broken doors and windows, Richard Rakow said.
“The bones are the same,” Catherine Rakow said. “We didn’t knock down walls. It just needed some love and care.”
At the time, the couple had recently moved to Meridian from Minnesota and were living less than a mile away, Richard Rakow said. Without knowing the history of the house, the couple bought the house and set to work repairing it.
Back then, kids would hide between the bushes at one end of the house and then “run around the corner,” afraid of the old, haunted house, Richard Rakow said.
One day while fixing up the house, an old man using a kitchen chair in place of a walker came up to Richard Rakow and told him that underneath some plywood on one of the house’s corner rooms were big windows.
“‘I’ve lived here all my life and I used to work for the doctor when I was a teenager,’” Richard Rakow said, impersonating the old man.
Sure enough, there were large windows in the room, and under its shag carpet were original hardwood floors.
Other members of the community responded, as well, when the couple began restoring the house. Richard Rakow said local farmers would bring them corn.
“We get compliments from a lot of people who say, ‘We love the way you kept this house up,’” he said. “Which tells me if someone had this place and wasn’t keeping it up they’d be disappointed.”
Meeting the Neals
Shortly after purchasing the house, Richard Rakow noticed a car parked in front.
“It looked like they had been hanging out for a while,” he said.
In the car was Dorothy Carol Stephens, daughter of the house’s original owner. She had her daughter with her.
Stephens was born in the Neal house on Christmas Day in 1907, according to her obituary, and was suffering from cancer at the time of her visit, Rakow said.
After showing Stephens around the house, Rakow asked if an old shoe box filled with trinkets and photos he found in the rafters belonged to her. It did.
“You would think I was giving her fine jewelry,” he said.
After their meeting, Stephens succeeded in getting the house on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Stephens died of cancer in 1995, according to her obituary.
The history of the Neals
Halbert Fletcher Neal served as Meridian’s only resident physician for 23 years until his death in 1933.
“During his lifetime he and his wife migrated to the center of Meridian’s civic activity, and their home became a cultural center, as well,” according to the report from the National Register of Historic Places.
Neal was connected to a number of organizations in Meridian, serving as a trustee on the school board for several years and helping build the Methodist Church in Meridian.
“He was liberal in support of community institutions, including the local bank, building and loan associations and creamery,” the report said.
His wife, Grace Neal, had “a hand in almost every social and civic innovation of her era,” the report said, including the school board, registrar for births and deaths and member of the Occident Club.
Parting with the house
After living in the house for a little less than 40 years, Richard and Catherine Rakow decided to sell the Halbert Fletcher Neal House so they could move into a retirement community.
“We’ll miss this place because we’ve spent more than half of our lives here,” said Richard Rakow, who was 34 when he moved into the house.
The couple raised three boys in the house and got married in it less than a year after they bought it. Catherine and Richard Rakow frequented the Idanha Hotel, now the Idanha Building, in downtown Boise to listen to Gene Harris, an American jazz artist, play. Catherine Rakow wanted him to play the wedding.
“Everyone said he probably wouldn’t, and he was gracious enough to do it,” she said. “We had the wedding and the party in the backyard. Then we followed (Gene) downtown.”
Catherine Rakow said they had booked so many suites in the hotel for attendees of the wedding that the Idanha gave them the honeymoon suite for free.
The house is just down the street from Meridian Elementary School. Richard Rakow said students often visit the historic one-room schoolhouse on the same block and then walk by and look at their house on field trips.
“That is one of things I think I will miss the most is seeing these kids traipse across this street,” Catherine Rakow said. “A lot of them stop by and wave.”