The old Ada County Courthouse, near the state capitol, is an interesting building. Completed in 1939, it is a striking art deco structure, unusual in Boise. It was being used as state offices during the capitol renovation. However, the building itself has been of uncertain status the last several years and when I was there, there was some construction going on. I don't know the status of it and neither did people I asked when in Boise.
Downtown Boise is large and attractive, with many nice old buildings. It is also lively, with many places to eat, relax, or shop, as well as many hotels. Although some streets are very automobile-oriented, overall the town is very lively with pedestrians and bicyclists and some streets are very pedestrian-friendly, lively with people and shaded in large trees. It also has a small old-town area with some historic buildings, more eateries and the like, and the Basque Block, the main Basque part of downtown.
Idaho has a nice, neo-classical state capitol completed in 1920. It was heavily renovated and restored between 2000 and 2010, with the restoration just completed. At the same time, also completed in 2010, was a relatively ambitious, and highly architecturally sensitive expansion of the building by construction two underground wings under the capitol's lawn on either side, to provide additional space without compromising the building's appearance or presence outside.
The Main Auction has had a sale at noon every Saturday since 1938.
It has a platform a city block long and the sale starts at both ends and lasts into the night sometimes.
Now mostly household goods, collectibles, tools, building supplies and closeouts, it originally also had produce and farm animals.
You can find a book about the auctionand Boise on Amazon.com:
"The story of a community auctioneer: The life and times of Col. Paul L. Owens "
Now owned by Danny Wesely, 4th generation of family business.
Boise Avenue runs along what once was the Oregon Trail. The path of the street parallels the river somewhat, but at a considerable distance. The city has erected a sequence of numerous memorial posts along Boise avenue to help educate the public about the Oregon Trail heritage and the pioneers that traveled it. The funding for this was raised by Boise public school students. There area several homes along Boise Avenue worthy of appreciating, but the further one heads toward Broadway, the newer buildings become.
Further down 8th street turns into what is essentially a redevelopment project created by the city. Considerable demolition must have occured within this part of old Boise, but fortunately the new work is quite pleasant are acceptable architecturally. There's a paving stone street lined by trees that's closed to vehicle traffic. The Grove itself is a paving stone plaza area centered by a fountain and circled by trees. Several old public fountains were saved and placed here, and there is a modern bronze statue dedicated to the youth of old Boise that perhaps once played in this area. There are several good restaurants and many fine shops in this area.
Despite world fame for having lost several presidents by assassination, loss of public officials through violence is really quite rare. Even more rare is to lose a governor by assassination. Governor Steunenburg was assassinated outside his home in 1905, five years after leaving office. Within two years, a memorial committee was formed and by 1927 this life sized statue was in place. Idaho thus has a unenviable shame within its history which is memorialized by a statue directly in front of the Capitol Building. The bronze statue and commemoration plate are a substantial work, and the flowers around it plentiful, but the concrete foundation steps are cracked and in need of replacement. Hopefully, this will be done as part of the Capitol Dome restoration project, but for now there remains access to this statue. See link below for specific details regarding this memorial statue.
The Nez Perce are one of many defeated tribes native to Idaho, but perhaps the most famous for their hospitality, and later their brilliant warrior campaign under Chief Joseph. There is a statue dedicated the hospitality of the Nez Perce to Lewis and Clark when they traveled through this region. The donor was a local rancher and history professor. The bronze statue is right near the entrance to the Capitol Dome park. The bronze was created by Dough Hyde, a nationally famous native American artist and descendant of the Nez Perce. For those interested in the brilliant and principaled defensive military campaign of Chief Joseph, see the link below
Stretching along the Boise River, on Capitol Boulevard, and across from Boise State University, is a most important city park, which was dedicated by Jefferson Davis in 1907 in memory of his wife Julia. The park hosts many concerts, and is the location for the museums of art and history. Rose gardens, picnic grounds, sport fields, and other park recreation are also located here.
A couple of blocks west of the Capitol Dome, and then nearly to the river, 8th Street provides a wealth of side walk restaurants and shops, and provides the venue for the Farmer's Market, street musicians, and many other street events. Sometimes the street is blocked off for vehicles, but typically the narrow street is slow going for cars, while bicycles reign supreme. The architecture of the buildings in the first 3 blocks is mixed, including many renovated late 19th century brick and stone structures, 1930's era art deco store fronts, and inbetween new high rises. There are several good Java houses, ice cream shops, wine bars, fresh brew beer joints, pastry shops, and so on. Some good upscale restaurants are also here. Further down the way, newer developments with brick paving in the street and plazas with fountains can be found. The Grove Plaza is the most notable of these newer developments, which is covered in the next tip.
The Idaho Capitol building is less ornate on the exterior stone work, at least, than any of the other state capital buildings that I have seen, however, I was prevented from getting too close as the building is surrounded by chain link fencing, and by signs reporting that restoration is in progress. The building is located on a slight rise above downtown. The relatively tall and narrow center dome, which is capped with a gold leaf covered eagle, and the flanking office buildings that house the executive and legislative offices were built over a long period from 1905 until after 1919. The finish stone was quarried from the nearby state-owned Table Rock Quarry. Neither the center entrance, nor any other entrance that I could see, were inscribed with dedications to inspire those who enter. However, half dome skylights on the flanking office building suggests that the interior legislative chambers could be quite nice inside. Hopefully, I can get better images in a future visit.
The second oldest of the bridges spanning the river near the Boise capitol is the Capitol Boulevard Memorial Bridge, which is dedicated to the pioneers of Idaho. A concrete span finished in 1931, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The style is art deco, having a modest ornamentation of concrete railing on it's span, entrance capitols, iron work, and decorative tile at both ends, in addition to the commemorative bronze plates. On a summer day, one can peer over and see rafters float under the bridge. The river is very nicely kept in its natural landscaping, incidentally, and the water appears clean and rapid in its flow.
Just below the Boise Train Depot is a marvelous landscaping of waterfalls, ponds, flower gardens, and lawn areas designed by Spanish landscape designer, Ricardo Espino. Dedicated to Howard Platt, the natural landscaping provided passing tourists an inviting place to climb around as they could also view over the city. When I visited recently, a photographer stood waiting with her camera and tripod for a wedding couple to arrive. She noted that the Platt Gardens were a popular setting for wedding and graduation photography. I found the pool of golden carp very impressive, but the upkeep of the stone stairs a bit worriesome. However, the gardens are free to the public and open anytime.
Actually, the most outstanding architecture in town isn't the Capitol Dome, but the train depot at the top of Vista Avenue. Designed by New York architects for the Union Pacific Railroad, it opened with great excitement in 1925, at a time when rail travel to the west could potentiate new tourism. The Spanish Revival depot with tower is located on a bluff overlooking the city and capitol dome right down capitol street. The tracks are on the opposite side of the building, so visitors coming to town would have to disembark, and then walk through the depot to see the spendid view of Boise. Today, the building serves mostly as a hall for weddings and parties, with some museum pieces filling space along some of the double door entrances. When I visited in the morning, I had excellent light for photography, but unfortunately, the building was still closed. The building opens at noon to the general public, and I understand that even the tower is open. I was fortunate enough to meet two women born and raised in Boise who recalled President Truman's visit by rail to Boise in 1949. This must have been during his second campaign as Idaho, so few in electoral delegates, is typically ignored in presidential politics until recently when Barak Obama spoke at the Taco Bell Arena at Boise State University. In any case, the women also related that at one time Idaho has legalized gambling and that for awhile Boise became threatened by gambling mobsters from Las Vegas. The Depot is no longer used for rail service and it owned by the city parks department.
There isn't a lot to see here since they do most of their work with wild birds and they do not want them to have human contact but the visitor's center is very interesting. They also bring out a bird to see up close and answer questions.
I would allow an hour to see this place.
Great for kids.