Question: What is the history of South Boise?
Answer: The area known as South Boise had several distinct stages of growth. Three major sections evolved over time; Historic South Boise Village, the central farm and ranch land, and the Barber Village area. As early as the 1840s, multitudes of hopeful emigrants, looking for a piece of land and a new community to call home, traveled across what would later be known as Southeast Boise. They traversed this land by way of the Oregon Trail, the same path that current day Boise avenue runs on. By the time the emigrant’s had reached this area they had traveled across the hot sagebrush covered lands to the east and faced the formidable crossing of the mighty Snake River. Many camped and rested in the cottonwoods and flat land along the peaceful southern banks of the river. But, by 1863 the peaceful valley changed as the discovery of gold in the nearby mountains brought a flood of miners to the area, and by 1863 the town of Boise appeared on the north side of the river.
As the town of Boise started to emerge across the river, the area on the south side of the flowing waterway started to see ranches and farms develop. One of the first settlers in the region, Joseph Bown, homesteaded in the 1860s. His land is close to Boise’s modern day Riverside Elementary School. One of the first land use projects south of the river developed as a solution to the commercial needs of some of its citizens. In 1865, J.C. and H.P. Issac recognized the need to transfer water across the entire length of the Southeast Boise area from the Boise River to a parcel of land close to the City of Boise. They built a ditch that ran logs to a sawmill, as well as provided a source of water to create power and land irrigation. The ditch transferred ownership several times but eventually became the property of William Ridenbaugh. The Ridenbaugh Canal, as it is called today, has been a familiar and useful project throughout the years.
South Boise Village
As more people moved to the area, small farms and ranches scattered the countryside, but by 1890 the small triangle between modern day Boise Avenue, the Boise River and just beyond Broadway Avenue started to take on a residential look. This area developed a village scheme of its own with a Main Street and numbered Avenues similar to the City of Boise. In 1891,the construction of a bridge across the Boise River, on Broadway Avenue, made the community of South Boise Village attractive to those looking for a new home. The Dundee Addition, Spofford Heights and Londoner neighborhoods soon populated the land, and by 1910 the village of South Boise boasted 885 citizens.
Commerce also developed around the small village; the South Boise Hotel, a horse collar factory, Baxter’s Foundry, the Ridenbaugh Flour Mill, the Ridenbaugh-Rossi Lumber Mill and a power plant constructed by Idaho Power. As the people of Boise and the Treasure Valley looked at the dry arid desert and envisioned lush fertile farmland, reclamation became a familiar term. The enactment of the Reclamation Act of 1902 gave the long delayed New York Canal project much needed funding. The canal, constructed on the outer border of Southeast Boise, not only brought many new residents to South Boise Village but has remained as another lasting landmark of the early history of the area.
Further down the Boise River, another early town grew around the Barber Lumber Company. By the early 1900s, the tree-lined streets of this bustling mill town called Barber housed 105 families. People from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada came there to log, or work in the mill and box manufacturing plants. The town died in the 1930s, but for a while it gave those who lived in the outer Southeast Boise area many happy memories.
The Central Farm Area
For the most part, the area east of Broadway and south of the river remained open farm and ranch land until the 1970s. Dairies and orchards abounded and for many years furnished the citizens of Boise with much needed agricultural products. Schools have always provided a core for social life and the central farm area of southeast Boise was no different. Two schools were prominent in the Southeast area; the Garfield School served the Village area from the corner of Boise Avenue and Broadway, and Holcomb School served the central farm area. Looking at the Holcomb school roster you see the last names of many of the prominent farmers and ranchers of the area. The school was built on the property of rancher Charles Holcomb in 1897, and serviced the children of the area until 1948.
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