The history of the City of Boise is a story of humble beginnings, with fluctuating success, population, and industries, all stabilizing to create the Boise we know and love today only within the last several decades. However, despite these ups and downs in its history, Boise has always been a beautiful city, with beautiful environments mixing nature with man made architecture in brilliant ways. Much of that architecture has varying influences, from Spanish to Romanesque, and so much more, and nowhere is that beautiful blending of architecture and nature as much on display as it is in Boise’s Historic North End.
The story of Boise’s North End neighborhood began shortly after the story of Boise began. Prospectors, starting in the end of the 1860’s, began to flock to the Boise Basin in force. Some of those prospectors hit pay dirt, while others did not, but regardless of personal fortune, many of these gold seekers inevitably began to settle what would become Boise, slowly but surely turning the area into a community. Over the years, and especially as those with wealth began to turn their gaze on the nascent Boise City (as Boise was named in its earliest days), more and more people migrated to the Boise area. It was during this time that the North End was born. Originally, the part of town that would become one of the most iconic neighborhoods in all of Boise was a remote part of town, with very few people living there, but by 1891, prospectors and people of interest began to buy land in earnest. The North End soon thereafter became Boise’s first slice of suburbia, at least in the late 19th-early 20th century equivalent of suburbia. It wasn’t until later, however, that some of the most iconic homes would begin to be built. Evidence of this can be readily seen in some of the oldest existing homes in the neighborhood, with small bungalows sharing elbow room with some of the finer homes in the neighborhood.
All the while, different parts of the neighborhood began to develop. After President Benjamin Harrison signed the Admissions Act, effectively granting Idaho its much prized Statehood in the Union, and his subsequent 1891 visit to Idaho shortly thereafter, it was determined to leave a mark on the City of Boise to denote such a monumental occasion. The Boise city council, along with land owner Jeremiah Brumback, came together to rename then 17th Street to Harrison Boulevard. This same landowner had helped facilitate adding of homes and cottages to the city short before this, helping to plan the city in the grid layout that much of city is set up as. This, along with other factors, would allow the North End of Boise to be the main area of population growth for the rest of the century and well into the 20th century.
In the early 20th century, as the United States’s economy and general prosperity would boom, so too would Boise boom. In response to this, many of Boise’s more influential citizens began to build large, ornately designed and downright stately homes along the Harrison Boulevard. Other projects, like the adding of medians of well landscaped plants and tree, as well as the advent of street lights, is part of what started the creation of the North End of Boise being one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the entire city.
As the North End community grew in size, so too did business in and around the neighborhood grow. To serve the needs of the North Enders, people began to set up shop in what is now known as Hyde Park, bringing in businesses from grocery stores to barbershops. According to the City of Boise, Hyde Park “was a thriving commercial district from the turn of the century, providing two barbers, a pharmacy, meat market, bicycle shop, hotel, shoe shop, milliner, dyer, dairy, post office, bakery, plumber and lumber yard.” At one point, a street car service was based in Hyde Park, connecting the North End at various points throughout the neighborhood as well as to the downtown area. Today, Hyde Park continues to be a focal point of the neighborhood, boasting some of the finest storefronts in the city as well as being the locale for community gatherings.
As the city of Boise continued to fluctuate throughout the 20th century, and particularly during the 1960’s, the North End began a period of change that saw many of the homes that made that area of the city famous repurposed. With the institution of the Boise Junior College (which would one day become Boise State University) came an ever growing student population, and with the growth of students came the need for available housing. Many of the stately homes and bungalows in the North End became divided up for this reason, changing the perception of the North End from that of strictly affluence to that of a more mixed culture that exists somewhat today. From 1960 to 1970, the student population boomed, going from 34,000 in 1960 to around 75,000 in 1970, changing and challenging the limits of Boise’s residential availability, particularly (as previously mentioned) the North End.
In response to this change, citizens of Boise formed what would become the North End Neighborhood Association to tackle the issue of keeping the historical elements of the neighborhood intact, and through city ordinances and city planning managed to do just that. In the 1980’s, the neighborhood, particularly the Harrison Boulevard area, would be listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, as well as being designated as a local historic preservation district by the city of Boise. Today, the North End is a popular area for residents city wide to enjoy a day off, surrounded by the gorgeous homes, scenery and environment in that part of the city. The North End is a constant reminder of the harmony that can coexist between humanity and nature, and even between humanity and itself, lending to the overall friendliness of one of the United State’s fastest growing cities.