Looking at Boise, historically, currently, and geospatially.

Boise Rendering, Google Earth 2013

Boise Rendering, Google Earth 2013

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, when you combine pictures from multiple eras focusing on the same thing, the differences (or similarities) can speak volumes for themselves. In this video blog below, I wanted to draw attention to an area that I feel needs some serious TLC on the development side. While there are likely reasons, stories – or even excuses – as to why these areas are undeveloped after so long, it seemed quite logical to use some of the free technological tools at our disposal to make an argument or two. First, is that 30 years is far to long for a parcel in a downtown area to be a dirt plot, and second, the main high-speed entrance to the downtown area should be a welcome sign, not a brown, dusty parking lot. Continue reading

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Boise’s Interurban rail system

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Photo retrieved from http://www.thewebfooters.com on 3/7/2014

From 1891 to 1928 the cities of Boise and its neighbors shared a rail system which provided convenient and affordable transportation from one town to the next. The rail system was very popular and not only provided citizens transportation from one city to the next and within the city, but was also a means for citizens to access recreational opportunities outside of town. Places a short ride into the country like Pierce Park, located by the Boise River where Plantation Golf Course it today, and Eagle Island, were popular destinations for picnics and boaters.

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In Boise’s Collister neighborhood, subdivisions and shifting land use

SycamoreScale

The Sycamore Neighborhood, a district of large lots within the larger Collister Neighborhood Association Boundaries. In red, the “Collister Center” shopping development. In yellow, the approximate site of Dr. Collister’s 20-bedroom mansion (now the site of Boise City Fire Station No. 9). City of Boise Advanced Property Research. Accessed 3/8/2014.

Water and agriculture played prominent roles in fostering growth in the Collister neighborhood, a bucolic ‘burb nestled against Boise’s foothills. But it was through transportation and urbanization, through an electric streetcar line threaded through Collister Station, mixed with an influx of business and new residents, that later solidified the characteristics of this unique area.

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Westward Ho! How Connectedness Facilitated (and Nearly Destroyed) Boise’s Agriculture

State (Valley) St. looking west, Boiseartsandhistory.org, Accessed 3/4/2014

State (Valley) St. looking west, Boiseartsandhistory.org, Accessed 3/4/2014

Boise was settled and developed as an agricultural community. It all started with canals, water and trees of course.

Once early-settlers were able to construct irrigation trenches facilitating orchards and family farms, expansion west of what had been known as Boise’s core, was foreseeable. Next, came the Inter-Urban Railway. With the intention of quick and efficient access to and from agricultural areas the Inter-Urban Railway was crucial in Boise’s expansion west. Just three miles west of the urban center of Boise, Collister Neighborhood was formed as an agriculturally-based community. However, the allure of commerce coupled with this new expansion threatened a vital part of Boise’s cultural foundation: agriculture. Continue reading

From Ustick to West Valley: A Little Story of Big Oppurtunities

Figure 1- Plat of the Original townsite of Ustick, 1907. Accessed from Ada County Assessors Office, 3/1/14.

Plat of the Original town-site of Ustick, 1907. Accessed from Ada County Assessors Office, 3/1/14

The story of Boise is continuously tied to its agricultural roots. Apart of that story is the growth of city limits following World War II and the inevitable conversion from farmland to residential subdivisions. Before this change, was a story of persuasion.  The persuasion of living the good life.  The area west of Boise, most usually referred to as the West Valley, has a unique story and a story worth noting. West Valley’s history is agricultural in nature, and connecting that past with the future is important to its residents and to Boise. In current times, the West Valley area is known for its contribution to making Boise a sprawling city. This was not always the case. The area now known as west valley, was once a bustling fruit orchard. Harland Ustick,a business man and a doctor, founded what used to be known as the small town of Ustick. Ustick boasted having “the finest orchard in the Boise Valley.”  Through local newspaper advertisements and other means the town of Ustick became a desirable area. The area west of Boise was destined to become what it has turned into in last few decades, and is not so much a story of its change from agricultural to suburbia, but one of the evolving American dream. The plat above shows the original town site of Ustick as it was platted in 1907. In 1907, Ustick was one of the few areas that was actually cultivated in the West Valley area. Over the years, and through much persuasion, this area has transformed into the sprawling west side of Boise.

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A “Small Community” within the Community?

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Boise City Comprehensive General Plan (City of Boise, 1963)

“In the consideration of residential areas, the neighborhood is usually considered to be the basic unit. It is generally conceived of as a small community within the community having more or less homogenous physical character and interests. The preferred pattern for a neighborhood centers about the elementary school site and play area and is designed to be free of unnecessary vehicular traffic.” (Boise City Comprehensive General Plan, 1963)

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Cemeteries and fairgrounds.

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Morris Hill Cemetery, personal photo taken 3/4/2014

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Morris Hill Cemetery, personal photo taken 3/4/2014

Boise’s Morris Hill Neighborhood has a rich history, including having the Western Idaho fairgrounds located within its boundaries from 1902 to 1967. The annual Western Idaho Fair was a cultural event that drew large crowds and excitement to the Morris Hill area, providing residents with the opportunity to socialize and enjoy the events. The fair continues to this day in its current location on Glenwood Street. The Morris Hill Neighborhood shares its eastern boundary with the Morris Hill Cemetery, established in January of 1882 which makes it one of the oldest cemeteries in Boise. This cemetery also has a long history, and is the final resting place of some notable characters in Idaho’s history – among them, Joseph A. Albertson, Moses Alexander and Frank Church. Although the Morris Hill Cemetery serves its original purpose, it also creates a valuable green space for the surrounding neighborhoods. The cemetery has persisted, more or less, unchanged since its original development, but the surrounding area has changed drastically. Originally the cemetery was considered to be on the outskirts of town, but as time went on Boise continued to annex outward. Both of these places are important as they provide a historic identity to the Morris Hill Neighborhood. Only one of these places remain today, but imagine how different Morris Hill would look had the fairgrounds stayed.

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“Boise Idaho State Fair 1952”, accessed 3/4/2014, thecircusblog.com

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