150 Boise icons: Warm Springs Avenue

March 23, 2013 

Not long after the city of Boise was platted in 1863, residents were enjoying geothermal springs on the east side of Table Rock. Bathers got to the springs via a dirt wagon track - the predecessor of the grand avenue we know today.

Judge Milton Kelly (editor of the Tri-Weekly Statesman from 1872 to 1889) expanded the springs into a more commercial operation.

By 1870, the territorial prison had been built at the foot of Table Rock, increasing traffic on the road. Farms sprung up, too. The Coston and Krall families started growing fruit nearby. Streets in the area still bear their names.

In 1890, crews drilled the first hot water well near town, just west of the penitentiary. According to the Idaho State Historical Museum, this was the first documented use of geothermal heat in the U.S.

Hot water-loving Boiseans soon had an alternative to Kelly's Hot Springs. The Natatorium, a geothermal spa described in historic documents as a "Moorish pleasure palace," opened for business in 1892. Bathers could reach the pool via street car on a line that connected Warm Springs and Downtown Boise.

The avenue became a fashionable address. The mix of residents included a mining baron, an opera singer, the cousin of celebrated western painter Charles Russell, a law partner of William Borah and many others. One domestic attraction that drew residents then and now: houses heated with natural hot water.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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