It is hard to see in the current Boise; however, years ago you wouldn’t have been able to find anybody living on the Boise Bench. It was completely desert. There was absolutely no water in the area of the Boise Bench until after the Ridenbaugh Canal initially began supplying it toward the end of the 1800s. With water, the Boise Bench is now able to be used for agriculture. It went from the land that was covered in dry desert sagebrush to a beautiful agrarian landscape of dairies, farms, homesteads, and orchards. The orchards were the reason behind the street orchard being named Orchard Street. Roughly 165,000 acres were claimed and now produced a number of crops like apples, asparagus, cherries, hay, peaches, and prunes. Some of these products were sent all the way to the other side of the country and even into Europe. There were very first home sites built on a 5 acre plot. Although, it was rural it was growing fast.
Concurrently, it wasn’t like the Boise we know today. The train track that was from downtown by the river went only to Nampa and back and didn’t extend back to that. On the days that the train went out to Nampa, it did not come into Boise. In 1924 that all changed when the main line in Boise was finished on the Bench. In 1925 the Boise Depot was finished; however, the community was unimpressed with Union Pacific’s choice of location. It was placed up on the hill looking out over the city, the hotels, the mud and the uphill travel uphill to the depot could be challenging. Residents hated going up the hill to visit the Morris Hill Cemetery and called it an utterly desolate and forbidding travel.
The airport was even closer to the town then the depot was. At the time the airport was where Boise State University is now. The Depot was built to give balance to the Idaho Statehouse being at the end of the grand axial boulevard completed in 1931. The building of what we know as the Capitol Boulevard memorial Bridge.
The Boise Bench consisted of Federal Way to the east, Eagle Road to the West and Garden City to the north. It sits on an evaluation of about 60 feet higher than downtown Boise. The Bench was a plateau south and way higher than the Boise River. The bench is accessible by some steep terrain from downtown Boise.
The building of homes on Crescent Rim was designed to take advantage of the views began in 1929 with the Edwin peasley house on the corner of Crescent Rim and Peasley Street. The growth of the city was on a decline during World War II.
Then again that thing called change came along. The roads began to be paved and motor vehicles began to be invented and sold. This brought in much excitement as the Bench was a lot closer. There were even lines for the streetcar to get to the bench.
Now that the Bench, Kootenai Street area, also known as Whitney Bench, was accessible and began to be developed as one of Boise’s earliest suburbs. The Bench was unlike the aristocat urban neighborhoods of East Boise, Harrison Boulevard, or Warm Springs; however, it was an easy commute with comfortably large plots. From the start, the area was generally platted with lots of room and large front and back yards in mind. This was not something you would find in the North end. The feel of the Bench area was an area that had an upper middle class feeling to it and attracted several of the city’s influencers of the time.
The population saya spark of growth in the 1930s and 1940s. Several individuals moved west during because they were hit by either the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl. More people moved to the area when Gowen Field was constructed in 1939. By the 1950’s the idyllic post war suburbia just south of the river was the place to live and consisted of half the Boise population. Another Boulevard called Americana was built in the 1950s and brought about another route to the Bench.
The homes consisted of brick, large front and back yards, single as well as double car garages, large family rooms and spacious closest space. In 1949, the first nation’s strip mall called Vista Village was constructed. Included in the strip mall was a movie theater and drive-in.
For the time being, the country and the Bench of Boise wasin architectural flux. Popular design was out the window. It was full of improvement in home styles, Cape Cod, Colonial, Ranch, and Tudo revival.
By the time of 1957, the community asked the city to install street signals at the intersections as there was so much traffic busling through the bench. There was much interest by investors to develop local commerce and shopping centers at some of the major interactions. A small hardware store was built by an investor by the name of Fred koll at a back lot on the corner of Franklin and Orchard Street by the railroad tracks. Two years after the hardware store Albertson’s grocery chain built a small sore on the same lot. By 1953 Koll had built a Whitehead drug store and in that same year, Albertsons expanded close by. In the late 1950’s the Franklin Shopping Center was busy with business and continued to grow.
The bench area has maintained ties to Boise’s downtown business sector. After 10 years of Boise first being designed the farmers in the area noticed the potential for growth beyond the reach of the river’s flood plain. The Bench was the obvious spot for this growth in the business sector and for agricultural from the 1870s through the 1910s.
History is best told by the lives of everyday people. The history above is a simple blurb of the excitement of the past Boise that has developed into inspiring lovely neighborhoods. The proximity to the heart of Boise makes the Bench neighborhood the natural area for residential growth, the Boise Depot, and the trolley cars.