In a city as old and as storied as Boise, there are bound to be many places of interest that could easily be of interest to residents or tourist alike. Although much of the Treasure Valley is in real estate-driven upheaval, there remains a lot of the Old Boise to be explored, and appreciated, if one is only willing to search in the right places. Relics from the State’s earliest history as a mining state all nearby us constantly, reminding us of the grit and determination of Idaho’s first American settlers.
One of Boise’s most popular landmarks hailing from earlier days is the Boise Train Depot. Described as “the most beautiful structure of its kind in the West…”, the Depot is one of the most beloved destinations of tourists and Boise natives alike. No longer in operation, the Depot instead hosts events, tours, and scenic views, restoration work performed on the structure doing a magnificent job maintaining the period-look of the depot. In a sense, walking in the Depot is like looking back in time. Built in the Roaring Twenties, the Depot, architecturally, reflects that time in America’s history, while at the same time boasting graceful additions of Spanish style trusses. The Depot itself operated for some seventy years, operating as both a passenger and a freight line for some time, specifically serving trains going to and from Portland. With the introduction of Amtrak, the Depot became almost exclusively passenger oriented, but as rail traffic declined, as well as the Depot changing hands two separate times, the last passenger train left the Depot in 1997. Currently, the City of Boise, and specifically Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department maintain the building. As mentioned earlier, extensive renovations to the Depot occurred in the same decade the Depot was closed for business, seeking to recreate and add to the beauty of the original Depot, as well as adding some much-needed updating. To add to the scenic beauty of the Depot itself, just two years after the completion of the Depot, the Platt Gardens were formed just outside of the Depot’s front doors. The Platt Gardens, again influenced somewhat my Spanish design, being designed by Spanish designer Ricardo Espino, features a winding path, a beautiful pond stocked with koi, with areas to think and enjoy the beauty both of the Gardens and of the Depot behind it. The Depot and Gardens both are host to weddings, graduation parties, corporate events and so on, being fitting venues for some of life’s happiest and important occasions.
A landmark that calls to mind the Old West and, more notoriously, the Wild West, is the Old Idaho Penitentiary. According to the Idaho Historical Society, the prison “opened its doors… to some of the West’s most desperate criminals.” The Penitentiary from its beginnings in the early 1870’s, was meant to be a place of isolation and toil, elements that were built into the very grounds and buildings of the institution. Even over a hundred years later, one can still feel the foreboding of a place designed to punish, restrict and correct, with the austere buildings and the even more austere prisoner quarters. However, the landmark remains an example of some of Idaho’s earliest history, and is a popular tourist attraction. From ghost hunters to history buffs to casual observers, the Penitentiary has inspired countless visits from people all over the country, a tradition that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Boise has many, many more attractions that speak of older days and long-forgotten times, reminding us that the old ways of life weren’t as long ago as we’d like to think. Each landmark or attraction, however, not only brings history but beauty to the great city of Boise, remaining as bastions of culture in an ever-changing environment. Every city in the world has something about it that makes it unique, loveable even, and Boise has many such things, helping to make Boise the wonder of a city it truly is.