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.

Boise Interurban Railway car #1 on State St.,  http://farrit.lili.org/, Accessed 3/4/2014.

Boise Interurban Railway car #1 on State St., http://farrit.lili.org/, Accessed 3/4/2014.

Orchard next to the Interurban Railway, Library of Congress, accessed 3/5/2014.

Orchard next to the Interurban Railway, Library of Congress, accessed 3/5/2014.

The Interurban Railway was slated to connect Boise, Nampa and Caldwell, three areas active in the agricultural community, but unable to transport product, or people, easily.

The Boise Valley Loop, thewebfooters.com, accessed 3/4/2014.

The Boise Valley Loop, thewebfooters.com, accessed 3/4/2014.

 

With the installation of the Interurban Railway, rural and urban, old and new, could be connected.

Rural parcels of land in areas surrounding the railway could, and were, marketed based on their newfound accessibility. “Looping the loop”  was advertised by developers such as W.E. Pierce, who developed Pierce Park and the Boise Hotel, to increase the desirability of reaching areas outside of the urban core of Boise. A quick train-ride was the gateway to a weekend vacation at Pierce Park.

Recreation at Pierce Park, thewebfooters.com, accessed 3/4/2014

Recreation at Pierce Park, thewebfooters.com, accessed 3/4/2014

With this installed innovation, the far-off western reaches of the Boise valley were no longer agriculturally-exclusive. With the Interurban Railway, areas miles out of “town” such as the Collister Neighborhood, could be reached in minutes. What originated as an easier and quicker mode out of, or around, Boise, resulted in more accessible land for development. And so, the dwindling of agricultural plats to be divvied and developed into residential areas began.

Advertisement for land near the Interurban Railway 1907, Boiseartsandhistory.org, accessed 3/4/2014.

Advertisement for land near the Interurban Railway 1907, Boiseartsandhistory.org, accessed 3/4/2014.

 

The once predominate agricultural lifestyle was now being converted into smaller lots with a more suburban setting.

This transition created the unique culture specific to the Collister Neighborhood. Residents of the area understood and embraced the importance of preserving a portion of their roots through sects specifically platted for agriculture. As the only neighborhood in Boise allowing agriculture within residentially-zoned areas, the Sycamore Lane area is especially proud to be the representative of a culture once prevalent in the area.

Boise’s history of expansion and the gradual elimination of farmland helped to create the historical importance of protecting this neighborhood’s beginnings. As such, agriculture and cultivation of the land have become important tenants within the Collister area community. These underlying cultural foundations are apparent through the area’s businesses, recreational gardens and agricultural preservation. Edwards Greenhouse has been family owned and operated since 1930. The nursery is a community meeting place, with programs for children, families, and professional and amateur gardeners alike. The importance of fostering a sense of community and embracing the already existing social and cultural fabrics are evidenced within this community and throughout (planning) history.

One of the Edwards' on the Farm, edwardsgreenhouse.com, accessed 3/4/2014

One of the Edwards’ on the Farm, edwardsgreenhouse.com, accessed 3/4/2014

In the case of the Collister Neighborhood, an area with a deeply ingrained agricultural and agrarian history, the answer for a healthy and thriving community are found in its roots. Preserving and embracing its history, both suburban and rural, are an important part of its future.

The link between agriculture and community has been foundational for countless communities. For a similar story regarding growth and agriculture in the Boise area see Kyle McCormick’s account of this time period. For aspirational community gardeners within and outside of the Collister Neighborhood, see Aaron Mondada’s blog.

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