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History of Boise

Boise, Idaho – history of the city

The city of Boise is the capital and largest city of the state of Idaho, as well as the county seat of Ada. It is located on the Boise River and serves as the principal city for the agglomeration of the same name. It is the largest city between Portland and Salt Lake City.

Before Boise

Travelers in the early 1800s stumbled across an oasis in the middle brown high-altitude desert. They are said to have shouted, "Les Bois!", which literally means "forest" in French. This not only gave the name to the city but also secured its nickname - "City of Trees".

In 1834, Fort Boise was founded about 40 miles from the present-day city. The fort hosted a variety of travelers - from professional soldiers to fur hunters. Thousands of people made the 1,554 miles journey along the Oregon Trail. After the Indian attacks, the fort closed in 1854.

The City Establishment

Interest in it was revived when gold was discovered in the Boise River Basin. Thanks to this, the city flourished and soon became known as a vibrant commercial center. In 1864, the city was registered and named the capital of the territory. With the exception of a slight population decline after the gold rush, the city has been growing steadily since then. Prosperity led to the need for a federal assay office, and in 1872, after one year of construction, the U.S. Assay Office opened. Comparable to a villa or castle, this building today houses the Historic Preservation Office.

Unfortunately, the good times have also brought organized crime and petty criminals. So, in 1870, construction of the Penitentiary began. The construction took more than ten years and was carried out mainly due to the labor of prisoners. The prison closed in 1973, but today it is open as a historical landmark and home to the Botanical Garden. The complex also houses the transportation museum and Ken Reese's Gospel Trailer.

Another important structure, the original Capitol Building, was built in 1886. In 1890, Idaho was named a state. The magnificent homes along Warm Springs Avenue have a well-preserved late 1800s era. Walking along it, you seem to be transported into the past.

The 20th Century

The new state government quickly outgrew the building, and a new one was built in 1905. Local sandstone was used for construction, as well as prisoner labor. In 1920, the marble and sandstone Capitol was finished.

Like many other high desert cities, Boise's growth depended on water. The expansion of irrigation use in the early 1900s brought farming families to the valley. The Irrigation Project planned to build the tallest dam in the world. In 1914, Moses Alexander became a governor, the first Jewish governor in the United States. Another first event in the country occurred in 1926 when commercial airmail appeared in Boise.

Always hospitable to immigrants, the city opened its gates in the 1930s to travelers who left their homes in the mountains of the Western Pyrenees. Although many began migrating to Idaho in the 1800s, the 1930s saw the most significant migration, resulting in the state becoming home to the largest number of immigrants in the United States.

Even the Great Depression could not stop the growth of the city. The local university admitted its first students in 1932. The first grocery store opened in 1939, marking the beginning of Albertson's supermarkets. In 1941, Simplot began processing potatoes in nearby Caldwell. Today, both Simplot and Albertsons are among the largest employers in the area.

World War II

During WW II, pilots received combat training at the airfield in Boise. In the neighboring town of Mountain Home, the air force base was opened in 1942. In the years after the war, the capital city continued to thrive. In 1957, two small logging companies joined forces to create the Boise Cascade company. Today, two million acres of forest land are under the control of paper production companies.

After The War And Civil Rights March

In 1959, Pete Oleson, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, came up with the nickname "Treasure Valley" for the Valley. He said the name highlights the "treasure trove of resources and opportunities in the area."

The first civil rights march took place a little later than in other areas of the U.S, only in 1968, after the Martin Luther King’s assassination. But it didn't take long for the Boise legislature to figure this out, and in 1969 the local Human Rights Commission was created.

Boise Today

With technological advances in the late 20th century, the honorary title of the largest employer went to Micron Technology. Founded in 1978 by three engineers, the company develops and manufactures semiconductor memory components. While Boise's high-tech industries continue to evolve into the 21st century, it's easy to get lost in the busy, fast-changing world of the corporate culture. However, state residents constantly remember their roots associated with expansion to the west.