A Basque in Boise

Anduiza Fronton, a Boise icon: An article from the Idaho Statesman

The different activities to celebrate Boise sesquicentennial are already in full swing: Walk150 Boise, where you have a chance to beat the Mayor’s challenge of walking 150 miles during the year, plus a variety of cultural and history related events that you can find on the Boise150 website.

But there is yet another anniversary coming up next year, the 100th anniversary of the Anduiza Building fronton. Last month I shared a petition by Bieter brothers Mark and John to send them any stories you might have related to the fronton.

Today, the Idaho Stateman has an article featuring Anduiza Fronton, nominated by Mark Bieter as a Boise icon.

150 Boise icons to celebrate the city’s sesquicentennial: Anduiza Fronton

Published: April 12, 2013
By Anna Webb — awebb@idahostatesman.com

The Anduiza family built their boarding house on Grove Street in 1912. The building offered something special: a fronton, or Basque handball court in its basement.

After the Anduiza era, an engineering firm occupied the building for 50 years. The fronton court remained intact. It looks today like it looked a century ago. Members of the Basque community bought the building in the early 1990s. It’s one of the buildings that forms the heart of the Basque Block.

Boise native Mark Bieter, co-author with his brother John of “An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho,” nominated the fronton as a Boise icon.

“If for no other reason, I think it deserves mention as one of very few century-old buildings in Downtown Boise that is still used for its original purpose,” said Bieter.

It’s a big room, more than 100 feet long and 50 feet tall.

Dan Everhart from Preservation Idaho said the fronton building is one of the city’s most notable historic structures, largely due to its rare combination of uses.

“Everything about that building was tied to the court. It wasn’t like a boarding house with a court attached. It was more like a court with a boarding house attached,” said Everhart.

“There are Boise buildings I like better architecturally, but none are more unique than the fronton.”

Bieter researched the building for his Bieter Blog.

Frontons exist in other American Basque communities, including Elko, Jordan Valley, Mountain Home and San Francisco. But the Anduiza fronton is the oldest active fronton in the U.S.

Not long after the court was built, the Idaho Statesman reported “shouts and hurrahs coming from the vicinity of 6th and Grove streets,” said Bieter.

He recalled a story told to him by an elderly Basque man. The “pelota,” or ball used for handball, is hard like a baseball. Local players used to play until their hands swelled up. At that point, they’d enlist the help of boarding house owner “Big Jack” Anduiza, who would press their hands under a board then stand on the board to reduce the swelling.

Bieter recalled meeting Basque handball players who came through town. Shaking hands with them “was like shaking hands with a brick,” he said.

Bieter remembers the fronton of the 1970s.

“It was a musty, dark place with lots of echoes. Shafts of light came through the few windows at the top and spread over the walls, on the hundreds of marks on the wall from all those balls over all the decades. You could hear pigeons in the beams.”

But the fronton had a rebirth as more American Basques traveled to Europe and learned Basque sports. An active group, the Boise Fronton Association oversees organized leagues for men and women. They have spring and fall league play and tournaments in the winter and summer.

Bieter recalls speaking to a player from California. The player told Bieter that playing at the Boise fronton, hot, cramped and ancient as it is, was like a baseball player getting to play at Wrigley Field.

To read the original article, click here.

Related posts

My favorite room, by Mark Bieter (also in Spanish)

Boise’s fronton centennial event: What’s your story?

Boise’s Anduiza Fronton: Approaching 100 years of pilota history

El frontón de Boise, en puertas de su centenario

Cien años contra la pared

Thanks for passing by: ↓

One thought on “Anduiza Fronton, a Boise icon: An article from the Idaho Statesman

  1. Ander

    What a nice article by Anna Webb; it’s nice to see that Boiseans, even without a Basque origin, respect and appreciate the story of the Basque community over there. And it’s true, that fronton has something special. The more you go there, the more experiences you live in there, the more you realize of its real value, way higher than its economical one.

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