Can you picture a Souvenir and Guide Book to Boise and Vicinity that includes individual portraits of every member of the citys fire department and its police department? Well, the attractive booklet published in 1908 by C.C. Clinton does, and he explains it like this: About the first question asked by prospective residents and business men of any community is: What are your fire fighting facilities? In this respect Boise can compare with any city in the country. It is modern and well equipped and for efficiency is not to be excelled anywhere.
The fire department described and pictured in the book reminds us that the world of 1908 was still one powered by horses. That the men of the department take pride in keeping their horses and equipment in the best of condition is evidenced by their appearance, which at all times appear as though they were prepared for parade. Two photos in the book are of chemical engines numbers two and three with their handsome teams and drivers.
The many advertisements in the booklet also indicate the importance of horses in 1908 Boise. Although there were already about two dozen automobiles in Boise Valley at the time, none of them is pictured in the book. Livery stables, where horses were bought, sold and boarded, have large and impressive ads. The Camas Livery Barn at 8th and Grove, E.M. Goodrich, proprietor, claimed to be the finest in town, with reasonable terms and both phones. Although no phone numbers are shown in this ad, we are reminded that in 1908, Boise had two competing phone companies, and that merchants had to subscribe to both to be in touch with their customers, who usually had just one. The half-page ad of the Pioneer Sale Barn lists two phone numbers: Bell Phone 43-Red and Independent Phone 92. A drawing of a horse illustrates this ad, which further states, Also Wagons, Harness, Saddles, and Pack Outfits, New and Second Hand.
The Wood River Barn at 1019 W. Main St. also features an illustration of a horse, includes its numbers for the two telephone companies and offers Teams and Drivers for Traveling Men, the 1908 equivalent of rental cars at todays airport. The traveling salesman of 1908 would have arrived by train from Nampa at the Front Street station of a branch line of the Union Pacific. Other livery stables with ads in the book were the Palace, at 6th and Front, C.L. Rand & Co., at 8th and Bannock, the Ransom Livery, Sale and Feed Stables, at 10th and Bannock, and Ed McGuffins at 16th and Main. Because all of these companies offered the same basic services, there had to have been enough business to keep all of them going. With all those horses in the center of town in 1908, there was a lot of manure on the citys streets.
A full-page drawing of the Capitol bears the names of Storey & Murphy, Builders; and Tourtellotte & Co., Architects. Construction of the building had been started in 1907, at about the time Clintons guidebook was being compiled. A Tourtellotte & Co. drawing of St. Johns Cathedral also appears, showing tall spires that were planned but never built. A Tourtellotte ad on another page lists reasons Why You Need an Architect When You Build. Another drawing of a building under construction in 1908 is of Boises New $100,000 Pinney Theatre. This, too, was a Tourtellotte & Co. project.
St. Teresaa Academy and St. Alphonsus Hospital ads share a page. Both institutions were conducted in 1908 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross from South Bend, Ind., in buildings that no longer exist. Other institutions pictured, with landmark buildings that do still stand, include the Idan-ha Hotel, (spelled with a hyphen), the Boise City National Bank, (later the Simplot Building) and the Main Fire Station, pictured with its horse-drawn equipment.
Among lost landmark buildings pictured in this 1908 booklet were the Natatorium, the Eastman Building, and the entire south side of Main Street, torn down in the 1970s. It was my appreciation of the importance of what we have lost and what we have saved that led me to write the book Historic Boise, an illustrated history of the citys architecture, 1863 to 1940, published in 1979.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email email@example.com.