The Basque Block

The Basque Block is one of Idaho’s most compelling examples of conservation and documentation of a living ethnic neighborhood. Located downtown between Capitol Boulevard and 6th Street on Grove, the Basque Block is comprised of two boarding houses -­ the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberruaga house, and the Anduiza with its unique indoor frontón court (jai alai, now pala arena), the Basque Center, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Bar Gernika, Leka Ona restaurant, and the Basque Market…
In her oral history from the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Adelia Garro Simplot discusses how the Basque Block came to be and how she became interested in purchasing the old Cub Tavern building on the corner of Grove Street and Capitol Boulevard. She had meetings with Romaine Gailey Hon, Skip Oppenheimer and Ron Slocum to negotiate for the building. The building became the gateway to The Basque Block. Dan Ansotegui rented the building and opened his tavern Bar Gernika.

With the help of Richard Hormaechea the next purchase was the Anduiza building which houses the frontón. Today it is a popular place for pala, handball, and other games. There are also offices and storage rooms in the building. Mrs. Simplot is proud of what the Basque Block has become.

In 2002, the area along Grove Street was renovated and two oversize steel laias (agricultural tools) were installed to greet the visitors. Today, the pavement displays the Basque national colors, as well as granite slabs etched with song lyrics, the surnames of local families, and the crest for each of the seven Basque provinces. In addition to exhibiting a collection of artifacts, the Basque Museum and Education Center’s archive contains documentation about the buildings and oral histories of community members.

According to an article published on the Preservation America website “the importance of the city’s Basque heritage is highlighted in the revitalization of the historic properties on The Basque Block, a portion of Grove Street. Revival in the area started with creation of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center. Private reinvestment followed, supported by city-funded streetscape improvements and interpretive signage.”

The article goes on to say “the newest project in the area is rehabilitation of the Cyrus Jacobs/Uberuaga House (1864), the oldest surviving brick building in Boise.”

The building restoration and conversion was completed in 2005 in time for Jaialdi 2005 under the direction of The Basque Museum and Cultural Center and is now open for tours.