A North End History

From the 1890’s into the 1950’s the North End was first a remote area of town then the main area of residential growth with developments like Brumbach addition adding hundreds of homes and cottages to the grid layout north of State Street.

At the same time Harrison Boulevard began taking shape. Harrison Boulevard, one of Boise’s most picturesque thoroughfares, is named for President Benjamin Harrison, who signed the Admissions Act making Idaho a state. His visit in 1891 prompted the City Council and local landowner Jeremiah Brumbach to rename 17th Street in honor of the 23rd president.

As Boise boomed in the first decades of the 20th Century, many of the City’s most prominent citizens built their homes on the Boulevard, resulting in a superb collection of architectural styles. With the addition of the median parkway and street lights in 1916. This unique combination of stately homes and medians make Harrison Boulevard one of Boise’s most historic and beautiful neighborhoods. Harrison Boulevard was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and designated as a local historic district by Boise City in 1989.

Image courtesy Hummel Architects

As Boise grew through the 60’s, much of downtown Boise and the North End began a period of decline. The Queen Anne homes were being split into apartments to accommodate the growth of the student population at then Boise Junior College and the influx of new residents that grew Boise from a population of 34,000 in 1960 to over 75,000 by 1970.  Missteps by city leaders in the 60’s and 70’s also created blocks of lost buildings and character in the downtown core in the name of urban renewal.  Community activists stepped up pressure to reverse the trends in the 70’s as chronicled in “Tearing Down Boise” published in 1974 in Harper’s Magazine.

“It’s a question of context,” said Arthur A. Hart, director of the Idaho State Historical museum back in the 1970’s and Idaho’s most loved historian. “A question of knowing who we are and where we come from.  A question of our human identity.  The megastructure is inhuman. Not only that, but it could be anywhere in the world.” We were virtually all in agreement in the end. The plan sucked. 

During this time the North End Neighborhood Association was formed to take on the issue specific issue that were effecting our neighborhood and Boise as a whole. NENA successfully changed the free-for-all zoning that threatened the integrity of the city and our neighborhood in the mid 70’s resulting in new zoning laws and the establishment of the North End and Hyde Park Historic Districts and more.

The North End Today

Hyde Park circa 2005 by Dave Green

Simply the best place to spend an afternoon sightseeing, shopping, or just relaxing in a coffee shop or park, the North End offers pedestrians and bicyclers an eyeful of historical and natural beauty. It is renowned for it’s trees, flowers and gardens, dozens of parks and is known nationally as the gateway to the Boise foothills, Bogus Basin Recreation Area and home to Hyde Park – the heart of the North End.

The North End is filled with history. Most of the neighborhood has been designated a Boise Historic Preservation District and boasts many sites that are listed on the National Historic Register. Wander these pages to learn more about this unique urban neighborhood!

Cover photo credit: Anne Loftus