"Capitol with Emerging Identity" Top 5 Page for this destination Boise by atufft

Boise Travel Guide: 140 reviews and 271 photos

Idaho Background: The Neglected State

If one looks at the map, at the size and shape of Idaho, it becomes immediately apparent that perhaps Idaho was a state created from land not already claimed by other state territories. Indeed, once part of Oregon Territory, Idaho still had no permanent settlement by the time Oregon became a state in 1848, and during this period, the region was split between the Washington territory and Oregon. In any case, Idaho was the last state in lower 48 states to be actually settled and begin it's territorial identity. Even then, this process began primarily as a result of a belated and now familiar frenzy over gold mining beginning in 1860, so that by 1863 residents demanded a functional territorial government. It was in 1863 that Boise's old downtown was first established, but even as late as the 1880's new discoveries of gold and silver maintained Idaho's image as mostly one of lawless mining camps. However, severe labor troubles in the mines at the end of the century led to political and lawlessness against an estabished elite of mining and ranching bosses, an image Idaho still must contend with. Early state governor, Frank Steunenberg, who had used federal troops to put down riots and to combat outlaws, was shockingly assassinated in 1905--undermining regional pride and inducing a shame few states have had to overcome. The trial of William Haywood and others accused of involvement in the murder amplified this reputation of lawlessness by drawing national attention, but also marked the beginning of the long career of William E. Borah (who had prosecuted the mine leaders) as an outstanding Republican party leader in the state and nation. Later in this period, ranching and farming interests retained political control, firmly entrenching the power of the Republican Party in state politics, a situation that exists even today. Meanwhile, Boise, the state capitol, while clearly the largest metropolitan area in Idaho, at just over 200,000 residents, remains surprisingly isolated, provincial, and modest relative to that found in neighboring states of Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Situated as it is on the turbulent white water of the Boise River, with the stark backdrop of mountains in the high desert plateau, Boise presents itself as an otherwise safe and friendly city where nothing can go wrong, a family oriented capitol, with an emerging civic identity that is emergent, quite pleasing, and almost urbane.

Urban Center in a Rugged Landscape

Besides the apparent natural wonders of mountains and wild rivers, which attract fishing, mountaineering, and skiing enthusiasts year around, Boise is mostly an urban oasis of learning and civic pleasures within a vast region mostly devoted to hard work of ranching, farming, or mining. Thus, Boise has been slow to develop, and yet by being off the beaten path of culture and tourism, the center of town has managed in recent decades to redevelop its old brick buildings for restaurant and quaint shopping purposes, to create a system of city parks around the capitol buildings and river front areas. Boise is not only a capitol but a university town, and so there is a sense of excitement downtown on the weekends that is missing is some similar-sized state capitols, such as Salem (Oregon) or Jackson (Mississippi). Also, having faced a image problem of white racism and gun toting lawlessness, Boise civic leaders have endeavored to build monumental reminders of tolerance and freedom, something, for example, Jackson, Mississippi has not done.

Boise Celebrates its Pioneer Image

The name Boise has origins in the French word for forest, and the original Fort Boise was located some 40 miles from the present city, nevertheless, Boise celebrates Idaho's pioneer heritage related to the Lewis & Clark expedition and a territory crossed by the Oregon trail. The city has dedicated many memorials to this heritage around town, and easy bicycle lanes or paths link between most of them. Boise has in recent years become a very bicycle friendly city, and downtown is a great place to park the bicycle and dine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. During pleasant summer days, couples and whole families bicycle around the downtown area without the least concern for crime nor traffic, and Boise has clearly adopted the craze for quality brewed espresso and beer so common in neighboring Oregon and Washington states.

  • Intro Updated Jul 22, 2008
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Reviews (15)

Comments (5)

  • Vulindlela's Profile Photo
    Feb 5, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Nice photos! My sister lives there so we visit often...

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    May 5, 2009 at 2:21 PM

    Thanks for the insight-If plane fares are cheap, I was considering here; maybe not now-but N CAlifornia

  • 850prc's Profile Photo
    Dec 1, 2008 at 3:53 AM

    Nice page, Alan. For years, my parents raised Appaloosa horses, the preferred equine stock of the Nez Perce tribe.

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Nov 1, 2008 at 10:43 PM

    "hard work of ranching, farming, or mining..." Don't forget logging. The lumber industry is very important, too. I had no idea that Boise had turned into such a bicycle friendly place.

  • SteveOSF's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2008 at 7:57 PM

    Boise looks like a pleasant town. Nice writing on your tips and excellent introduction.

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