When Shirley Maestas was growing up in Boise in the 1940s and '50s, "it was an entirely different world than it is now," she said.
Maestas lived on the Bench, but she and her friends habitually rode their bikes from one end of town to the other, from her grandmother's house at the end of Harrison Boulevard to the Foothills, which Maestas and her friends considered their big outdoor "playground." The children roamed the Capitol, too, playing hide-and-seek in the hallowed halls.
But Maestas' favorite spot in town was a perch in front of the Boise Depot from where she could survey the Valley.
"We were privileged to be among the crowd that welcomed Harry Truman's campaign train on its Boise stop," Maestas said.
Truman's whistle-stop tour across the U.S. in 1948 - the close election that ended with the famous erroneous headline "Dewey Defeats Truman" - included a stop at the Boise Depot, known then as the Union Pacific Depot.
Maestas nominated the site as a Boise icon.
Boisean Lisa McMillin seconded the nomination.
"When I first moved to Boise in 1980, it really stood out architecturally with its Spanish look. ... I can even hear the occasional train going through from my home in the North End if the weather conditions are right," McMillan said.
Amtrak's final passenger train left the station in 1997, but Boise Valley Railroad freight trains still pass the depot twice a day - one eastbound, one westbound - carrying potatoes, lumber, fuel and fertilizer.
The California Mission-style depot opened and welcomed its first transcontinental train in 1925. City leaders had campaigned for years to convince Union Pacific to bring rail to the heart of Boise. Scores of residents turned out to celebrate when that finally happened.
Morrison Knudsen Corp. bought the depot from Union Pacific in 1990 and began an exhaustive three-year restoration that included re-creating original light fixtures from old photographs, making the tower accessible to visitors for the first time and removing, cleaning and re-installing 16,000 roof tiles - then doing the same with the 45,000 tiles surrounding the depot.
The city of Boise bought the building in 1996. It remains one of the most beloved sites in the Treasure Valley. In that way, not much has changed from when Maestas was a girl.
Next time you visit, be sure to look up. Images of trains - old-time coaches and locomotives - decorate the ceiling trusses.
Anna Webb: 377-6431