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.
The original Western Idaho Fairgrounds were located between Curtis and Orchard Roads where the freeway passes today. This area is in the Northern section of the Morris Hill Neighborhood. The Cemetery is located on the eastern boundary of the Morris Hill Neighborhood. Below are some maps, with the Morris Hill Neighborhood outlined in red, the cemetery in blue, and the old fairground location in yellow.
(note: each image is click-able to see the blown up version)
These aerial photos show how the Morris Hill Neighborhood grew from an agricultural area into a more urban, residential sector. In the 1939 photo the area has far more agricultural land than houses. By 1964 the residential area had expanded significantly. This expansion is due in part to the post World War II housing boom and the areas proximity to down town Boise. Both the fairgrounds and the cemetery provide a barrier to the growth exemplified in these images. As you can see in the 1986 photo, the freeway passes through where the fairgrounds were previously located. When the fairgrounds were removed for the passage of the freeway it opened up land to be developed, which eventually became large commercial buildings.
So, the Morris Hill Neighborhood was able to retain one of its prominent historic features, and lost the other to the expansion of the city and its road systems. Which makes one wonder what would have happened if the freeway would have gone just a little further north, or a completely different route? While looking at the 2013 photo its easy to imagine where the fairgrounds once stood. There could be a multitude of open-space uses for what was once the fairground (if it had to change or move).
But what if it stayed as the fairgrounds? If the fair had stayed in the Morris Hill Neighborhood it would be relatively centralized in modern day Boise, potentially adding to its draw and preserving a historic fair environment. In terms of its potential impact, this would have changed the face of the Morris Hill Neighborhood.
With both the cemetery and the fairgrounds located within the Morris Hill Neighborhood it would arguably make it one of the more historically significant areas of Boise. It could also add value as a magnet to attract people to the area and create a large social gathering point with a healthy economic impact.