The Shoshone-Bannock people were drawn to the Boise Valley by the geological fault that created geothermal pools to warm their winter-chilled bones. Then came French fur trappers who delighted in the dense green ribbon of le Bois that bisected high desert sage land. Mining brought early American westward migration via the Oregon Trail. Exhausted families, having already lost most of their stock and possessions to accident, weather, starvation, or conflicts with the natives, trudged up to this mirage of shade and bountiful river water. A lot of women folk put their little tired feet down and said, The hell with Oregon. This is our promised land.
An eclectic mixture of architecture reminds us of how we began and how we’ve changed through the years. I love the juxtaposition of the old and the new. In the top floor of the Century Link Building, far right you can see a small box. This is a nesting site for our urban Peregrine Falcons. Each spring three or four youngsters fledge from their penthouse suite.
The El Korah Shrine Temple with the red brick roof, started life as a livery stable. After a devastating fire, the Shriner’s Temple was built on this site in 1914. The building has a storied past, which includes a ghost story and recently rediscovered and refurbished wall murals in the ballroom that were painted by noted Boise sign painter, Harry Hopffgarten. Behind it you see the 1972 vintage former headquarters of Boise Cascade with its main floor atrium filled with full sized trees. To the right of the Shriner’s Temple, is a new work in progress. When finished the ten-story building will add more office and retail space to a growing downtown.
From the parking lot where I photographed the Shriner’s Temple, Alfred Hitchcock cocked his lens at me. We have these wonderful grafitti artists (Sector Seventeen) in Boise. Give them a theme and off they go. Of course, they don’t need a theme, Freak Alley deserves an entire post of its own. But here we see a the backside of the Hitchcock Building. Below is the front of the same building, originally built in 1919 as a car lot and taken over in 1978 by the independent Record Exchange. Through the years, the Record Exchange has clung to its values as an arty/funky gathering place. Vinyl still rocks the walls. Occasionally a small stage in the back hosts touring musician performances. Coffee and eclectic/risque gifts add to the fun vibe.
And of course, another traffic box wrapped in original art guards the building.
Boise Creative Center, the back side of a former heating and cooling business. How many city alleys do you know that are this pretty? A collection of artists work in metal, paint, and glass from the front of the building.
Artist David Carmack Lewis put his mark on the 1963 vintage Key Financial Center; a building that was the second tallest—just below the Idaho State Capitol Building—until 1975. His mural depicts the South Fork of the Payette River.
Boise loves to brag about being bike-friendly. There are lots of mountain bike trails and the greenbelt is lovely—albeit crowded—but for real bicycle commuters many challenges to a safe, even commute still exist. The bike parking situation is looking up.
The state of Idaho is about as politically red as you can get. But the Capital City is a bastion of democratic hope.
The iconic Cactus Bar claims to be the oldest bar in Boise. It may be the oldest in continued use as a bar. It is certainly the only cash-only bar in Boise. My bar days are long past, but the Cactus looks a lot spiffier than the times I bypassed the waft of smoky, beer, and piss that rushed for freedom past the ubiquitous beefy bouncer who stood just inside the doorway. In the day, it was not uncommon to see a man with dick in his hand or a pair of men on either side of the door relieving themselves against the wall. I confess, I’ve never been inside this building.