|Teetering between its rural roots and
high-tech tomorrow, Boise's distinctive neighborhoods tell a story of
growth. Elegant subdivisions line manicured golf courses and caress the
Boise River. Rolling eastward and westward, these neighborhoods have
replaced farmland, shortening the boundaries between adjacent towns.
What were once sleepy, rural villages are now considered Boise's bedroom communities, including Meridian, Eagle, Nampa and Caldwell, all located west of Boise off Interstate 84. Boise proper is built around breathtaking mountains and sagebrush desert. Seven distinct districts, each with its own feel and attraction, introduce old Boise to new.
North End: Boise's Soul
Tree-lined Harrison Boulevard's historic mansions set the tone for this old neighborhood. Including the downtown area, this northern district is referred to by locals as the North End. Young couples looking for charm are fixing up North End homes, creating a renewed interest in one of Boise's original neighborhoods.
In the middle of the North End, is Hyde Park with its boutiques and popular eateries like Lucky 13. For more than 20 years the Hyde Park Street Fair, has set the tone for this funky neighborhood. Spilling into Camel's Back Park, one of Boise's more popular open spaces, the fair attracts visitors from all over the Treasure Valley.
East End: Mixing Old With New
Like the North End, northeastern Boise's highlight is a historic street, Warm Springs Avenue. Posh Victorian homes, many among Boise's first residences, make the Avenue a tourist attraction. Many of the homes are geothermally heated, taking advantage of hot water sources for heat. This neighborhood, often referred to as the East End, dates even further back than the Victorian residences. Oregon Trail emigrants, following the Boise River, rambled through the area long before the mansions were built.
However, old Boise is preparing to meet with new Boise. A large community, Harris Ranch, is in the planning. What will be the Boise's biggest development project is not without controversy. Harris Ranch will not be northeastern Boise's only new neighborhood. Stretching high into the foothills, this northeastern district includes many modern homes with enviable views of the city.
The district also boasts some of Boise's most impressive parks. Julia Davis Park, hugs the neighborhood's southern boundary while Municipal Park reaches its eastern extreme. The educational Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center is one of northeastern Boise's main attractions.
Northwest: Horses and High Prices
Merging farmland with modern subdivisions, this northwestern district is a good example of the changes Boise is undergoing. From its eastern boundary at 36th Street, it almost touches the Boise River to the south and stretches north to include one of Boise's most exclusive subdivisions, Quail Ridge.
Although new homes punctuate the landscape, there is still plenty of room for horse pastures and older farm homes in this neighborhood, dating back to the 1880s. One of the main roads, Collister, is named for Dr. George Collister, a Boise pioneer. Pierce Park Road takes its name from Walter Pierce whose park-building efforts have been transformed into the Plantation Golf Course.
Garden City: City Within City
Named for historic gardens raised by Chinese immigrants, this small city within Boise's boundaries stretches along Chinden Boulevard, also named for a Chinese garden. The 50-year-old city has a tarnished past from legalized gambling in the late 1940s to adult bookstores. However, much of Garden City's shady past is a thing for the history books.
Today its main attraction is the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, home to the Western Idaho Fair. Les Bois Park offers horse racing while professional baseball can be found at the Hawks Memorial Stadium. Park and history lovers can both enjoy Centennial Park, honoring Garden City's original Chinese residents.
Boise Bench: 1950s Suburbia Meets Hewlett-Packard
Not that long ago, the Boise Bench was a mishmash of 1950s brick bungalows and grander homes overlooking downtown Boise and its string of parks. Today, the Bench's character has changed because of Hewlett-Packard (HP), Boise's second largest employer, and the Boise Towne Square Mall.
Divided by Highway 184, the Bench falls into the West Bench, dominated by HP and the Mall, and the Central Bench, home to 1950s suburbia. Boise's largest parks, Ann Morrison Park and Kathryn Albertson Park, can be found in the Central Bench. The Boise Train Depot with its Platt Gardens is also located here, offering visitors priceless views of downtown Boise and the surrounding mountains.
One word says it all for this southeastern district. Micron Technology's complex dominates the far eastern corner of this new Boise neighborhood. Growing along with Micron, the area has sprouted new subdivisions, housing Micron employees, and the 150-acre Simplot Sports Complex.
Even though the new threatens to overshadow the old here, southeastern Boise is also home to Barber Park, the official beginning for the longtime summer tradition of rafting the Boise River. Boise State University and the picturesque Park Center Boulevard are also found in southeastern Boise. Park Center hosts many corporate offices, hotels, posh eateries and the exclusive Boise River neighborhood, River Run.
Southwest: Big Sky
Just across Interstate 84, this southwestern neighborhood unfolds across a high desert plain with endless views. There is less of everything in this area; less development, less shopping and less services. The Boise Municipal Airport, Idaho Military History Museum, and National Interagency Fire Center are the tourist highlights. Planning is underway for a 163-acre park, which would make it Boise's largest.
Southwest Boise also offers little in the way of transportation services. In fact, bus services are limited in Boise, but improving each year. The Boise Urban Stages (BUS) offers a comprehensive system through downtown Boise and the main shopping corridors. However, Idahoans, like most Americans, love their cars and until recently traffic jams were unknown. With growth have come the typical city problems of rush hour traffic and crowded streets on a road system that was not designed for heavy traffic.
Growth has actually emphasized Boise's natural features. The imposing Boise Ridge, with its brown mountains reaching about 8,000-feet in height, is more important to Boiseans because of the growth spurt. In the winter residents dash to nearby Bogus Basin for a few hours of night skiing or explore the Ridge to River Trail System on foot or by bicycle. Boise's recreation hub, the Boise River and Greenbelt Pathway, links the downtown area and a string of parks for fishing, in-line skating, biking, or picnicking. As more people make Boise home, local efforts to preserve Boise's main attraction, its outdoors, will become more important.
Who would have predicted Boise's growth? From the butt of late night comedians' jokes to repeated listings on best places to live lists, Boise defies classification. Its humble homesteading beginnings continue to be seen in the polite, hospitable approach its residents take to visitors. Regardless of its future, Boise will always offer visitors historic and modern neighborhoods that brush up against some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States.
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