Tucked between Boise and Eagle along the river, you will find one of the most unique communities in the greater Boise area, Garden City, Idaho. Garden City is only 4.2 square miles in area and has an irregular rectangular shape running along the Boise River, surrounded on three sides by Boise and the other by Eagle.
For a long time, Garden City was subject to a less-than-stellar reputation based somewhat on its very origins. However, that reputation has begun to change in recent years, and many do not understand where it came from in the first place. Let’s change that by taking a look at the origins, history, and evolution of Garden City, Idaho!
Origins and History
One of the first things you may wonder about Garden City is the origin of its name. The answer to this question is actually referenced in the city’s largest street, Chinden Boulevard, though many might not know this even if they are familiar with Chinden. Chinden is actually a portmanteau of the words “Chinese” and “garden” and is named for the impressive gardens once grown by Chinese immigrants who lived in the area.
Some of the Chinese Gardens that Garden City is named for
Image courtesy of Idaho State Historical Society, Photo 73-106-5
Moving forward, Garden City unfortunately transitioned into a city no longer reflecting the beauty it was originally named for. Despite its arboreal namesake, Garden City’s actual origins as a city are a bit seedier in nature. Following a 1949 city-wide ban on gambling in Boise, the petition to incorporate Garden City was approved and the city founded with an initial population of 542.
Despite gambling being banned statewide in 1954, Garden City held onto this negative reputation for many years to come. This is due to the city’s propensity for less-than-reputable types of businesses such as adult bookstores, pawn shops, hourly-rate motels, and cheap car dealerships, especially along Chinden Boulevard. While many of these seedy staples have largely disappeared and have been replaced by more reputable ones, their impact has taken time to overcome for Garden City’s identity as a community.
Evolution of Garden City
Despite the negative reputation Garden City has had for the majority of its existence since 1949, there have been positive changes and steps made in the right direction over time. In recent years, especially, things have started to look up for Garden City.
One of the trademark events of Garden City is the Western Idaho Fair. Held on Expo Idaho grounds in Garden City each summer since moving there in 1967, The Fair has brought massive amounts of visitors to the city. According to The Fair’s website, “More than 250,000 people attend Western Idaho Fair and another 750,000 come through the facilities for trade shows, auctions, sporting events, livestock activities and company gatherings.”
At the Western Idaho Fair, visitors can attend and participate in a wide variety of events. From rides and carnival games, to agricultural displays and competitions, to live music and entertainment, there is something for the entire family to enjoy.
With such a large attendance coming to Garden City for the event each summer, The Western Idaho Fair has been a foundation of culture there for more than fifty years now and continues to be as the city continues to grow into the future.
Memorial Stadium in has been home of the Boise Hawks since 1989.
Immediately adjacent to Expo Idaho and the Western Idaho Fair is Garden City’s other most notable landmark, Memorial Stadium. Since 1989, Memorial Stadium has been home to minor league baseball team, the Boise Hawks. Memorial Stadium also occasionally hosts non-baseball events, such as concerts, but its primary use remains as host to the Hawks. Truly one of the best ways to spend a summer evening in the greater Boise area is catching a game there.
Garden City Today
In recent years, Garden City has seen many of the same signs of growth as Boise and the rest of the Treasure Valley. Just take a drive down Chinden Boulevard and you will see a string of new developments and businesses dotting the city’s largest street.
If it has been awhile since you’ve taken a drive down Chinden or Garden City as a whole, you will likely be struck by the generous uptick in one particular type of business—breweries. Along the four miles that Chinden runs through Garden City alone, there are six breweries and tap houses, plus even more nearby.
Split Rail Winery is just one of the many breweries, wineries, and tap houses that has sprung up along Chinden Boulevard in recent years.
These breweries not only bring a boost to Garden City economically, but also culturally. No longer is Garden City just a place to go see a baseball game, or go to the Fair each summer. Now, it is worth a trip on its own outside those seasonal attractions.
Beyond breweries, there has also been the additions of other entertainment venues that have helped spark Garden City’s resurgence. Across Glenwood from Expo Idaho and Memorial Stadium is Revolution Concert House, which hosts concerts that previously may have skipped over the Boise area. Further down Chinden is the Visual Arts Collective (VAC), which hosts a wide variety of events such as concerts, art gallery shows, theater performances, and more!
These recent changes to Garden City are not only great improvements for those living there, but all Treasure Valley residents, as well. Now, Garden City is not simply a drive-through town between Downtown Boise and Eagle, Meridian, or Northwest Boise, but an area worthy of going to on its own.
The city’s growth and resurgence only seems to have started, as well. Garden City is not only working to improve on its past reputation, but leave those connotations in the past and become a thriving piece of the Treasure Valley puzzle.