Boise History


How did Boise become the City of Trees?

Boise Strikes Gold

Northwest of Boise’s current location, Hudson’s Bay Company founded a trading post for wagon trails in 1834 along the Oregon Trail on the Snake River. The spot was called “Les Bois”, coined by the French-Canadian fur-trappers, directly translating to “wooded”. Thousands of emigrants continued to pass through on their way to Oregon. After about 30 years, gold was discovered in the area and brought a number of prospectors, creating a convenient supply point for the mining camps.

In 1864, the town became a territorial capital and was incorporated as a city. Over the following years, gold strikes continued. By 1868 the town had more than 400 permanent structures, many of which were residential.

Downtown Boise
Photo Credit: Alden Skeie

Out Goes the Gold, In Comes the Farms

Once the gold boom settled, the population was in decline as Boise was an isolated location far off major lines of transportation. The determined citizens made it their initiative to make the area livable by developing irrigation systems, planting crops and mapping out a town with shady streets along the river.

The city became the state capital when Idaho entered the Union in 1864. After 15 years of construction, the Capitol building was completed in 1920. By 1925, the Union Pacific Depot (Boise Depot now) was built as the first railway service to run through the area.

Boise Capitol Building

Prior to World War II multiple dams and reservoirs were constructed to improve the agricultural outlook for the growing city. During World War II the military became a strong presence in the Boise area, establishing the Gowen Field for flying and training. In the 1960’s the city doubled in population and suburban areas, leading to further growth over the years.

Today, Boise flourishes with job opportunities, and is recognized for a high quality of life and is ideal for the favorable climate with all four seasons. As the high-tech industry evolves and the population grows, Boise is continually recognized as one of the top places to live in America.

Boise Train Depot

Learn more about the history of Boise’s greatest treasures:

History of Garden City

History of the Greenbelt

History of Freak Alley

Historical Information: Idaho State Historical Society Library, Library and Archives Building, 450 North Fourth Street, Boise, ID 83702; telephone (208)334-3356; fax (208)334-3198; email archivist rhouse@ishs.state.id.us