(AKA “Keep Boise Weird”)
As a tireless and active member of the Boise community I am often amazed and amused by the many comparisons some like to make between Boise and other cities. Statements like “Boise is the next Portland” or “Boise is becoming a smaller Denver” are made with little regard to our very unique history and culture. There are dozens of things that set Boise apart from Portland, Denver or any other city in the United States, for that matter.
With very little effort I came up up with some evidently little known gems about Boise that people may want to take into account before making these odd, to me, comparisons. And, keep in mind, we really do like keeping Boise weird in the nicest ways possible.
Boise’s Basque Community
Boise has a large, unique, for a city of our size, population whose culture has helped shape our city. No where else is there a concentration of Basques like there is in Boise. New York has Italians, Boston has the Irish, Chicago a strong Polish community and Los Angeles has a vibrant Hispanic culture. Check out the Basque Block downtown and the Basque Studies Program at Boise State University for more about our Basque family. And don’t forget, Boise’s got Basque.
The first practicing Jewish governor in United States history was Boise’s Moses Alexander. He was also Boise’s mayor and founder of Alexander’s Men’s Store as well as many other accomplishments. His beautiful Victorian home is still standing at 304 W. State St. in Boise.
Ahavath Beth Israel synagogue, the first in Idaho, was built in 1896. It is the oldest synagogue in continuous use west of the Mississippi River. It was a landmark in Boise’s North End next to the Boise YMCA until it was moved to a permanent site off of Latah Street in 2003.
Our TreeFort Music Festival is a one-of-a-kind festival that makes people in other cities envious… including Portland. It ws founded in the North End and its principle’s continue to be on the cutting edge of music and music promotion.
Anne Frank Memorial
Boise is the site of the only human rights memorial in the U.S., the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. My personal history with the memorial extends to my heroic friend Bill Wassmuth who started the effort to run the Aryan Nations out of North Idaho in the 1980’s and endured assassination attempts and prejudice. Bill was a Catholic priest and attended seminary in Washington not far from his childhood home in Idaho. The memorial also features one of the few installations where the full text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is on permanent public display.
Boise was home to little Varney Airlines. Founded in 1926 at the Boise airport when it was located where Boise State University is today. Within 4 years Varney merged with United Airlines. United is the only airline that has served Boise on continuous basis since then.
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, just 16 miles up the hill, an honorary part of the North End, is the largest and most successful non-profit ski area in the United States.
We’re in Hot Water
Boise has the largest geothermal system in the country supplying heat to 92 buildings in Downtown Boise, Fort Boise Veteran’s complex and most of the Idaho State Capitol mall. The system has been in use for since 1891 and the Warm Springs were the first in the United States to be heated with geothermal water.
And then there’s those Boiseans who have stood out. Take Kristin Armstrong for example. Our home girl is the first cyclist ever to win three gold medals in the same discipline.
While it is true Boise is growing, many of us will continue to emphasize what our past teaches us about the future. Knowing our roots as a community helps us create a better future; and without an understanding of history, we are doomed to repeat our collective past.
For more about our North End Lifestyle – click here.