Idaho wasn't admitted to the union until July 3rd, 1890, but it is home to several historically important sites that are predominantly in and around Boise and Ada County. In addition to enjoying Idaho's diverse and exciting geography this summer, taking a tour or visiting some of these sites can be a worthy and educational experience to add to your to do list. The Idaho State Historical Society and several museums work to preserve Idaho's deep cultural heritage, and there are numerous places to hit this summer that everyone is sure to enjoy and be able to participate in.
Idaho State Historical Museum
Perhaps the best place to start your historical trek through Idaho is at the largest and most visited museum in the state, the Idaho State Historical Museum, located right here in Boise. It is home to a diverse collection of artifacts relating to Idaho's regional history, and has many interactive programs to enjoy. The unique and amazing collections add up to over 250,000 pieces and includes exhibits on Idaho's history and culture, occupations, and experiences. The museum also entertains traveling and temporary exhibits on a large variety of subjects.
While visiting the Idaho State Historical Museum, a stop to the adjacent Pioneer Village is a must. Newly renovated, the village is located in the great outdoors in Julia Davis Park, and is the site of several relocated (and the state's oldest) buildings from Idaho's early territorial days that were once home to prominent citizens. One of which, the Logan House, constructed in 1865, is a rare survivor of the Boise's adobe period. Built with sun dried brick like many of Boise's homes during its first few years of existence, the Logan House is the only one to remain.
The home was originally owned by a man named Charles W. Slocum who later sold the house to Mr. Logan for $2000 in 1868. Subsequently, Mr. Logan was elected mayor of Boise four times over the 1870s and his home became an important site to the city of Boise. It was moved from its original location on Sixth Street in 1970. In Pioneer Village, also visit the Isaac Coston log cabin and the Richard Adelmann house. You'll also find the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail that offers hands on activities that bring historical elements alive from 1804 to 1806.
Old Idaho Penitentiary
The Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site functioned as a prison between 1872 to 1973, and today is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It began as a single cell house and eventually grew to encompass several unique buildings encased with a 17 foot high wall made of sandstone. The convicts themselves helped construct the wall and ongoing constructions. The prison encompasses several different cell houses and housed more than 13,000 inmates with a population that maxed out at a bit over 600 at any given time. Two of the prison's most famous residents were Harry Orchard and Lyda Southard. Harry Orchard was responsible for assassinating Governor Frank Steunenberg at the turn of the 20th century and Lyda Southard was convicted for killing several of her husbands in order to collect their life insurance.
It was in the years 1971 and 1973 when two serious prison riots resulted from harsh living conditions in the prison that the 416 inmates were relocated to a modern penitentiary south of Boise, and the Old Idaho Penitentiary was permanently closed December of 1973.
Bureau of Reclamation Building
While on tour, stop by the Bureau of Reclamation Building on Broadway Avenue. This large brick building was constructed in 1912 and was the site for engineers and administrators for the Boise Irrigation Project of the United States Reclamation Service. It's historically significant for the development of several major engineering features in Idaho, including the Deer Flat Embankments, Deadwood Dam, Minidoka Dam, Owyhee Dam, Arrowrock Dam, and the power house construction at the Boise Diversion Dam. The Arrowrock Dam project was of particular importance, and the Reclamation Building also served as a private railroad spur for deliveries to the construction site.
It wasn't until 2003 that the Reclamation Agency moved to larger offices, leaving the old building's future a large unknown. The two story structure is one of the oldest surviving Reclamation office buildings and is unique for its size, use of brick, and Craftsman style. The building holds onto much of the original materials both inside and out.
The Capitol Building
This article would not be complete without the mention of the state capitol building. It's one of Boise's most aesthetically pleasing and treasured buildings with a rich history spanning for nearly a century. You'll find ongoing exhibits in the Capitol building, including the award winning Garden Level exhibition, “Governing Idaho: How People and Policies Shape our State.” It won a prestigious award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, the highest award offered in the field. There are other permanent and changing exhibits on display at the building. While taking a tour of the building, don't miss the George Washington Equestrian Statue, historic photography collections, and an assemblage of portraits of Idaho Governors and Legislators extending back to 1891.
There's so much more to Boise's rich history than the few highlighted destinations discussed here. For more, take a drive or a stroll through Boise's North End, hitting Harrison Boulevard and Hyde Park. Hyde Park is on the National Historic Register for the unique architecture of its buildings as well as the area's unusual urban retail area largely uncommon for any neighborhood. In addition, you can't fully experience Boise's history or North End without a meander down beautiful Warm Springs Avenue, home to one of Boise's finest streets with an eclectic variety of architectural styles and motifs. Many of these homes still operate under geothermal heating. When looking for a house think of a place that has lots of history like Boise.
Interested in Boise Idaho real estate? Whether you're looking for something in Boise's Historic District, downtown, or near one of our sprawling parks, give us a call anytime at (208) 571-7145.