History of West Boise
The boom cities of the American West began to demonstrate quick growth by the 20th century, which lead to patterns of suburban development. Although Boise was the smallest and most secluded city in the rising West there was no exception. Boise had the ideal location in the southwestern region. Due to the ideal location, Boise became the go to commercial, financial and political hub of the encircled mining and agriculture economy. Between 1890 and 1910 the growth of the city began to demand homes and land for many settlers. This lead to the development of the city’s first suburban expansion. The expansion was done in West Boise in the early 20th century and brought the city a new form and a mature image for many.
The earliest part of the development in Boise stayed with the “walking city” pattern. This was due to the non-ability to travel quickly place to place as the street car had not yet been expanded to West Boise so the homes and developments needed to be in close range of each other. In 1891 the creation of a streetcar system allowed for the development of residential areas to spread out more. The West End of Boise consisted of the area south of State Street and north of Fairview Avenue which also included 21st through 32nd streets. The West End of Boise was able to take on a more recognizable suburban appearance with lots of up fifty foot in width instead of the normal twenty five foot lots that were in North and East Boise. This provided an opportunity for a wide range of classes to find the suburban lifestyle. With the expansion of the streetcar lines, this increased that opportunity even more as the workers and laborers did not have to worry about finding a living place within walking distance of their jobs.
The beginning of development in the West End of Boise began with the laying out of the Fairview expansion in 1903, along with the immediate west. The West Side Addition in 1905. Both expansions sat in the main part of the Boise River floodplain which was called Broadway Terrace. The Broadway Terrace extended from Ann Morrison Park to Glenwood Street (as it sits now). The West End part of the Broadway Terrace sloped slightly away from the western edge of downtown towards the river, a distinct geography which made for an ideal suburban location. The West End sat on a flat plain, where the North and East Ends both close to the foothills made for marchy uneven terrain and are prone to flash floods. In spite of the location within the Broadway Terrace floodplain, the area of Fairview and West Side did not have any risk of flooding. The huge gravel deposits that were left behind by the change in the land that was carved out the terraces of the Boise River offered fertile soil. In the north of each expansion, Frank and Hester Davis had a large farm and they grew fruit orchards, cultivated hay and raised sheep. The Davis farm offered a great way to the foothills that were further north and city center was still close enough for convenience by way of the streetcar. The primary developers of the West End were able to market their land as the prime suburban combination of urban access and rural peace which was available to all. The lots on Fairview were 50 by 122 feet and sold for $150 per lot. This was often cheaper than the prices of the older parts of town that were 25 by 115 feet.
The ones that bought the West Side expansion platted the land for a mix of uses. W.H. Ridenbaugh and G.H. Gess were involved in the development of the early city and co owned the property along with their wives. The West side has the river at the western edge and the Oregon Short Line railway running through the southern part made the area the perfect location for the industrial use. There were freight lines adjacent to or even within industrial property made it possible for easier deliveries and transporting of heavy goods. The river offered the perfect convenience and reliability for industries to remove waste. Ridenbaugh and Gess initialled planned to create some kind of commercial or industrial interest on the site. However, Ridenbaugh already had a successful lumber yard and Gess had controlling interest in a large scale meat packing and retail business and could not decide mutually on how to utilize and divide the land for commercial development and since the city’s persistent growth they decided to lay out the land for residential use. Rodenbaugh's and Gesses layed out each lot in 50 foot and priced is as low as $50 per lot. No more than a month later D.H. Moseley who was a real estate broker sold at least six lots to future home builders. Fairview expansion wasn’t the only area that had large but low priced lots. West Side also offered the lots to small means people who wanted to live in a suburban neighborhood with large lots.
Although, the West End had the rural aspect and the land was easy to develop the presence of the railroad and river put a sore on the area and a dumper on the suburban character. The North and East areas had irregular in grade and were prone to flooding but they didn’t have the industrial and commercial activity. Since the main transit routes used for commercial development was on the southern stretches of the West End Rodenbaugh's and Gesses layed out lots that were by the railroad right of way in huge, irregular shapes perfect for industrial utilization. Coast Lumber Company created a carpentry mill on one of these lots and operated in that location from 1906 to 1920. In 1914 to 1930 Idaho began a concerted program of highway construction and decided to use Fairview as a state and later national highway. The Coast Mill location later was used by the Transportation Department as storage for equipment and materials. At this same time, at least six oil companies constructed tank sites in the river bottoms south of Fairview.
Although the Boise River was on the outskirts of the city it still gave risk to the West End’s suburban character. Since the river was outside the city limits it lead to a ideal location for riverside industries, such as slaughterhouses. The slaughterhouses were located on the riverbank at the western edge of the West Side expansion as well as a stock pens and a sausage factory. Later close to the 1930s the Quinn Robbins company bought the riverside land and closed down the slaughterhouses. The company started excavation of the rich gravel stores. Gravel quarries and later cement plants operated on the West End’s by the 1980s.
After World War II residential growth started in the West End and State Street became a major highway. 27th street also became a popular way for traffic after the closure of the streetcars in 1929. Main Street just north of Fairview and 27th Street connected. The development of gas and service stations, hotels, drive through restaurants, banks and car dealerships began along these three main roads.
In today’s world the West End is not an official historic neighborhood; however, it is full of unique and vital places of the city’s past. No matter the current status of the city, the area of the West End first suburbs remains a neighborhood and has lead to Boise’s maturing civic growth. The West End also shaped and reflected the growth of the town during a vital era of its history.