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.

By 1907 the Boise interurban electric railroad made its way to the town of Ustick, coming from downtown Boise. It was not only used as a tool to transport goods and people, but it was an economic development tool. It was looked at as something to do for fun, and was very helpful to business’s that were on its route. Take a look at this advertisement from an Idaho Statesman ad in 1913. Loop the loop meant taking a ride around the whole interurban railway system.

This advertisement was an economic persuasion to get people to ride the railroad, and to see all Boise had to offer. The interurban railroad had a huge influence on the growth of Boise. The economic possibilities influenced the businessman side of Harland Ustick to persuade the railway companies to make a track to the Ustick area. Ted Vanegas, a local historian, said, “one of the interurban’s biggest supporters was Dr. Harland Ustick.”

Once the railcar made its way to the town of Ustick, began being carved into smaller farms. The Idaho Statesman at this time made suburban development more popular with the ads. In 1907 many ads to buy the land tracts at the Ustick site concentrated on the fact that the interurban railcar was readily available. The people who moved out here were able to sell their produce and get quicker returns because of the railcar. Suburban movement began to become more popular, take a look at the title of the want ads for land outside of Boise. This title implied that these little ads were big opportunities for people.

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Idaho Statesman ad from 1908 accessed from the Historical Idaho Statesman Archive online March 1, 2014.

“Big opportunities” and ads like this are what persuaded people to move out to the West Valley Area. A 1907 Idaho Statesman article talks about how the Ustick area was “growing like a weed.” In the article it states,

Although it was only April 12 last (year) that the ground was platted into 110 lots and the announcement made that Ustick would soon be a live bustling village building have already been erected there, and although little effort has been made to sell lots 28 have already been sold.

With ads like this, who could resist moving out to this beautiful area?

Advertisement from Idaho Statesman, May 17, 1908. Accessed from the Historical Idaho Statesman Archive online, 2/28/14

Advertisement from Idaho Statesman, May 17, 1908. Accessed from the Historical Idaho Statesman Archive online, 2/28/14

This type of persuasion is what influenced the growth of this area. The map below shows how much it grew from the original town site.

This is an ownership map of the area around the Ustick town site in 1938. Obtained from the Idaho State Archives, Metsker’s Atlas of Ada County, Idaho, 1938, accessed 2/1/14.

This is an ownership map of the area around the Ustick town site in 1938. Obtained from the Idaho State Archives, Metsker’s Atlas of Ada County, Idaho, 1938, accessed 2/1/14.

Even though more people were coming to the western edge of Boise, it did not see much growth after the 1920’s. It remained farmland, and fairly rural. The 1938 map legend shows that each of the roads on this map are dirt roads. The growth that took place in the early 1900’s was predominantly people coming to the area to start a farm. This was until the 1970’s when suburban development really started to shape the area. For more information on the lure to this area in the 1970’s and later check out Tod’s blog, Swing Westward.

The story of the transition of Ustick into what it is now, is one of persuading people to the area to live a good life.  The identity of the neighborhoods in the West Valley can identify with its rich history, by knowing what was there before now. Even today, you see ties to its history through art.

Ustick-Road

Ward Hooper’s rendering of Ustick Orchards. Accessed 3/5/14 from Ward Hooper Gallery of Art.

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