Historical Boise

November 2, 2015

By Nicole Sharp, photography courtesy of Boise City Dept of Arts and History

 

In the late 1800s, Boise established its roots with a trifecta of historical events: the discovery of gold in the area, the foundation of a military that offered protection to new residents, and its location at a crossroads for the Oregon Trail.

By 1864, Boise was an incorporated territory. Two years later, in 1886, the Capitol building was finished, an architectural accomplishment that was closely followed by the development of the streetcar system in 1887. In 1890, Idaho entered into statehood.

Boise was sustained by water and brought to life by ingenuity and engineering. As the state’s capitol city, Boise demonstrated the optimism of its residents with ongoing construction projects backed by local entrepreneurs.

In the late 1800s, Boise established its roots with a trifecta of historical events: the discovery of gold in the area, the foundation of a military that offered protection to new residents, and its location at a crossroads for the Oregon Trail.

By 1864, Boise was an incorporated territory. Two years later, in 1886, the Capitol building was finished, an 19762uarchitectural accomplishment that was closely followed by the development of the streetcar system in 1887. In 1890, Idaho entered into statehood.

Boise was sustained by water and brought to life by ingenuity and engineering. As the state’s capitol city, Boise demonstrated the optimism of its residents with ongoing construction projects backed by local entrepreneurs.

Boise, like most other cities, worked tirelessly to attract the railroads from the first moments of its incorporation. Still, Idaho was completely bypassed by the Union Pacific. In the 1870s the nearest freight depot was in Kelton, Utah, more than 200 miles away. From there, freight wagons would travel the distance between Utah and Idaho to deliver goods. It wasn’t until 1893 that tracks were laid by the Oregon Short line on Front Street and the depot pictured was built on the corner of 10th Street and Front Street. It was here that residents greeted visiting friends and family. It was also here that in 1903 the city greeted President Theodore Roosevelt on his visit to Boise.

The depot on Front Street was active until the opening of the new depot in 1925. This proud structure was used as storage until it was demolished in 1947.

This photo was taken in 1909 at the corner of Eighth and Main Street in downtown Boise. If you stand at this very spot today, with your back to the foothills and looking straight toward The Grove, there are no shadows of the past visible. The urbanization of Boise later in the 19th century changed the streetscape that greets the eye today.

The train on 10th and Front Streets brought travelers to the center of Boise, and the development of a streetcar system made Idaho’s capitol a booming hub of activity and business. Straight ahead on the right is the First National Bank; next to that R. J. Kohny’s department store. On the left side of the street is the Carlson-Lusk Hardware Co. established in 1905.3a13023u

This photo dates to 1910 and is of two unknown women in a “rig,” but aside from their period dress and the dirt road, it could almost be mistaken for the present day North End. In the background, just under the horse’s head on the curb of the street, there is a granite hitching post where Boiseans could “park” their horses while visiting friends. Several old hitching posts still exist around Boise today.

As Boise grew, the need for increased food production attracted farmers. And the farmers needed water. Farm land along the Boise River was quickly taken up, and irrigating land beyond the river became a priority.

Arrowrock Dam, located 22 miles upstream from Boise, celebrated its centennial anniversary this October. At the time of completion, the dam was the tallest in the world at just over 348 feet. Arrowrock Dam took four years to complete. To support the dam’s construction, a nearby camp housed 1,400 people complete with cottages, bunkhouses, a hospital, hotel, post office, a school and the Federal Government’s first public railroad, The Boise & Arrowock Railroad.

The skyline of Boise continues to change, but the indomitable spirit of an optimistic people who look to the future remains steadfast in metropolitan Boise. Our big city with a small town feel still holds a distinctive sense of community and a love for the pioneers who came before us and built the foundation we continue to build upon.