Landmarks of Old Boise
Boise is not a city of ancient and it is not a city of new. It is not a city of small or big. Boise is a city of several old and beautiful relics, buildings, and landmarks. The beginning of the city was a fort which then officially became a city in 1863. In today’s world as well as in the early years the city expansion and industry has been fruitful. Although not every building of the old days is being used, the buildings are a great story of what the great and old metropolis of Boise is.
In 1834, the Hudson’s Bay Company built Fort Boise. Fort Boise was used as a fur trading post and is at the mouth of the Boise River. After 1841, the fort gave travelers of the Oregon Trail supplies until 1854 when the fort was abandoned. In 1860 gold was discovered on the Clearwater River bringing the rush of miners to north Idaho. In 1862, the gold was discovered in the Boise Basin and it brought farmers and merchants to the Boise Valley. With the newcomer's, fort Boise was established as a military post in 1863. The fort protected the local mining industry and emigrants from Indian attacks. The city of Boise was then platted between the fort and the Boise River leading the fort to become a community center for the young eligible men in the area. The community center hosted religious services, concerts, theatrical productions and other festivities.
After 1879 the fort was renamed to Boise Barracks and it remained an active military post until 1912. In 1916, preparation for the Mexican border campaign brought soldiers back to the post and in 1930 it started to home the veterans hospital. The state of Idaho took part of the property over in 1944. The site in today’s Boise is a location of the Boise Veterans Administration Medical Center, a public park and an alternative high school with the military cemetery and a few other buildings constructed back in 1864 to 1932 still remain.
The O’Farrell Cabin was the first residence and is the oldest building in the City of Boise. John O'Farrell built the 200 square foot home and it is located on 4th Street between Franklin and Fort Street near the main entrance of Fort Boise. The cabin is constructed of logs that came from Cottonwood Creek, bricks that were manufactured at Fort Boise and stone that was taken from nearby hills. Boise’s first Roman Catholic mass was offered in the cabin after Mary O’Farrell invited two priests to stop by the cabin in 1870. The O’Farrell couple lived in the cabin with their seven children for more than ten years. In 1872, the O’Farrell’s moved to a larger residence that John had built.
The cabin went to the O’Farrell’s daughters in the 1900s after the death of Mary and John. The daughters then handed over the cabin to a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The cabin became at risk in 1911 when construction at a nearby location started. The Daughters of the American Revolution took action to get the cabin preserved and moved the cabin 200 feet to were it sits now. Funds were raised by The Daughters of the American Revolution chapter by allowing close by pioneer families to view the cabin and by selling postcards. The money was then used to keep up the cabin’s appearance.
The deed was then given to the Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers in 1956. The Sons and Daughters of the Idaho Pioneers kept the property until 1993 when the City of Boise took ownership. An effort by the Boise Department of Parks and Recreation, Boise City Historic Preservation commission, Idaho State Historical Society and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs then took on a major preservation effort to get the cabin restored, protected and provide interpretive signage for the site.
United States Assay Office
The Boise Basin was isolated by mountains and desserts and it made it difficult for Idaho miners to be able to afford the assaying of ore transportation. By public demand in 1869, the United States Congress appropriated $75,000 for construction of an Assay Office in Boise. Construction of the building began in 1870 and completed in 1871. However, the ore could not be processed until the necessary equipment was received and installed, this did not happen until early 1872. The project itself cost just over $76,000.
The location of the building ins on Main Street in the center of the block bordered by Main, 2nd, Idaho and 3rd Street. The building is built out of local sandstone, it is a two story building with a basement, two tall chimneys at the back of the building, a low pitched hip roof with a small central ventilator and two smaller chimneys above the side walls. Decorations are limited to pediments above the front entrance and the window directly above the front entrance. All of the windows were barred from the outside with iron rods and the eaves were bracketed by the rafter timbers.
In the 1930s, the office was shut down and the building was transferred to the Forest Service. It then became the headquarters for the Boise and payette national forests for the next forty years. The Idaho State Historical Society then took ownership in 1972. It is now the offices of the State Historic Preservation Office which is a division of the Society.
Located at the southeast corner of 7th Street, which is now Capital Boulevard and Main Street is the Perrault Building. The Perrault building was built in 1879 by Joseph Perrault who was a businessman. The architecture of the building is simple, with clean angular lines. It was constructed with large, smooth blocks of local sandstone. Three rectangular second story windows look out of the square two-story structure. Each of the windows have a recessed panel above them. A modern storefront has taken over the three original street level arched windows.
Perrault arrived in Boise in 1872 from Canada and found a job at the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman. The Idaho Tri-Weekly was a local newspaper run by his father in law Milton Kelly. After the paper, his held several positions for the city offices and in 1879 went into business for himself which was a saddle and harness shop. The saddle and harness shop is the oldest commercial building in the Old Boise Historic District. The second floor of the building was being used for lodging by 1901 and the first floor was occupied by many businesses until 1926. In 1926, Harry K. Fritchman bought the building and opened an art gallery. The building is still being used today and is home to retail space on the first floor and office space upstairs.
Although, the past is in the past and is its own history in Boise we find that there are still gateways to it. Anyone is able to learn about the past just by visiting these marvelous little landmarks and just remember this is just a few of the amazing past relics.