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History of Downtown Boise and East Boise

Posted by Hughes Group Blog Team on Saturday, May 19th, 2018 at 11:42am.

The initial development of the East end of Boise began close to the same time of the beginning of Boise City. Fort Boise and the Military Reserve Park are housed in the far north west corner of the East end neighborhood. Fort Boise was constructed in 1863 to help with the protection of miners and Eastern settlers from Indian attacks. Boise Valley was a popular stop on the road for many fur trappers before 1863 and emigrants traveled the Oregon Trail since 1842 that went through the Boise Valley. With the discovery of gold in 1862 in the Boise Basin a flow of individuals entered the valley. This was the first time, several remained and offered goods and services to the mines and military.

Tom Davis, William Ritchley, and eight other men meet on July 7, 1863, and came up with a plan to build a site between the new fort and the river. The initial plan consisted of ten city blocks on either side of Main Street in between Fifth and Tenth Streets. Adobe, batten, board and tents structures all came up on the site and housed a great part of Boise’s population. Included in the structures was a general store built by Cyrus Jacobs which was one of the town fathers who had a career in merchandising, milling and meat packing.

Filling up the townsite was homes by families which all had street names named after them, such as O’Farrell, Logan, and Pierce. All of these homes went up even before the military arrived in town. On the corner of Fort Street near Lincoln School sits the O’Farrell cabin that was constructed in 1862. The Coston cabin that was initially located east of town, finally the Pierce cabin is located by the Mayor Thomas E. Logan house next to the Idaho State Historical Museum in Julia Davis Park. The cabins among other early on homes built in Boise are constructed from logs from nearby cottonwood trees. Pine found over the ridge was a bit stronger than the cottonwood trees; however, the cottonwood took less effort to haul the short distance to the townsite. Fort Boise was not considered part of the East End of Boise at first but it sits on the easternmost part of the initial townsite and the scattered out homes east of town started the East End neighborhood.

In 1864, Jesus Urquide created a base camp for his packing company which was located behind his home on Main Street. The encampment was known as Urquide’s Village and contained dozens of pack animals, along with 30 little cabins for employees to stay in. Urquide was one of the very first packers that were successful in the whole Northwest. During the Indian wars urquide worked for the army, in addition to running people and supplies into the remote mining camps of Idaho. In 1972 the cabins were removed and in 1981 his house was torn down.

George Whitfield Russell was one of the earliest settlers who hauled pine lumber over Bogus Mountain by ox team to construct the family home in 1869. The family home still stands on Warm Springs Avenue. The Russell family raised cattle, horses, and fruit on the surrounding land of the homestead.

The street we now know as Warm Springs was a popular route that was not yet paved that went back the Russell, Urquide and other homes east of town. In the 1860’s parts of the Boise-Idaho City toll road made it impassable due to this many used the Warm Springs route to get to the mining camps. In addition, it brought visitors to Kelly Hot Springs which was an Indian gathering place and later on turned into a resort. This was located just east of Warm Springs Mesa and contained hot pools and overnight lodging buildings. Any time a State Senate or House were missing employers during the Idaho legislature session the resort would be the first place they would look. Legend has it that the resort was burned to the ground by angry citizens who were concerned by the red-light reputation.

The East End has a long history of public use, private enterprise, and residences. Several of the earlier buildings that were constructed in East Boise were public buildings. For example, the United States Assay Office (constructed in 1864), the Quartermaster building in Fort Boise (constructed in 1872) and the Idaho State Penitentiary (constructed in 1870).

By the time 1885 rolled around, strenuous development of the East End was extended as far south as Front Street to the east of First Street. John Krall, G. W. Lewis, and Thomas Davis all owned land just beyond First Street. Thomas Davis later donated a part of his land for a city park named after his wife Julia.

By 1890, the East End of Boise was seeing a lot of change in land use, growth in population and public perception. A local banker names C. W. Moore, along with a group of important Boise businessmen came together in a journey to drill for and start for hot water adjoining the Penitentiary. That Christmas Eve the men struck 92 degree water only eighty feet down. In May of 1891 two wells at the depth of four hundred feet had been struck and a 180 degree water. Immediately, after the wells were struck, C. W. Moore constructed a mansion on the corner of Warm Springs and Walnut Street. He moved his family there and obtained honor as having the first home in the US that had heated water from the earth.

The Rapid Transit Company was created by George Whitefield Russell which was Moore’s neighbor in 1891. Russell also had experience in cattle and fruit ranching. During this time of the Rapid Transit Company, Russell was able to get experience in moving individuals and their goods as a manager of the Idaho City stage route. The Rapid Transit was a trolley system that went two and one half miles of track from Natatorium to 14th Street on Warm Springs and Main Street. The Geothermal Water Business built the Natatorium in 1892 to encourage the utilization of the system and to offer boise citizens with a social and recreational center. The Natatorium was damaged in July of 1934 by a violent wind and then later demolished.

Several prominent citizens built banking, mining, manufacturing, and raising of cattle and sheep constructed homes along the entire avenue of Warm Springs. This made the area from Grove to Warm Springs one of the most well known residential streets. Another residential section of town was built up along Warm Springs and extended north to East Bannock Street. The East End is not just full of residential but also contains several public buildings.

Over the 1980’s the Foothills development has continued and is full of old neighborhoods, the construction of homes near the river in Warm Springs Hollow and Kimberly One. The last area that is able to be developed in the East End is to the north. However, just as empty land is constructed on, developed land can be redeveloped and neighborhoods can be changed. One of the oldest parts of East End had this happen and that was the area of the initial development. This section became the current Boise downtown. The downtown is full of office conversions, government office towers, and high rise residences. The future for Boise has some potential for great growth and continual development while still keeping the history and preservation of the vision of the neighborhoods.

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