150 Boise Icons: Harrison Boulevard

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 1, 2013 

Did you know? Harrison Boulevard got its street lamps and its distinctive median parkway in 1916.

CHRIS BUTLER — Idaho Statesman file Buy Photo

Boise's boulevard, bisected by a row of shade trees, possesses undeniable grandiosity - in its scale, in the stone lions that guard 1505, in the columns and triangular pediment at 1201, or even in the cool, white Art Moderne hipness of 1717, a house that feels no compunction about sharing no style similarities with its neighbors.

Once known as 17th Street, it became Harrison Boulevard in 1891 after President Benjamin Harrison visited Boise. Harrison signed the Admissions Act that made Idaho the 43rd state on July 3, 1890. Boiseans started moving onto the boulevard after 1901.

Despite its scale and presidential moniker, Harrison Boulevard isn't all about grandiosity, said Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho.

"While we do think of Harrison as a place where Boise's elite have lived, there's also a history of Harrison being a democratic place. It's hard to shoehorn one neighborhood into a single class structure."

What it lacked in ethnic diversity, the boulevard possessed in economic diversity. Harrison was home to doctors, lawyers, merchants and politicians, but it also had more modest homes on smaller lots.

Old records, for instance, show that through the years, 900 Harrison was home to salesmen, musicians, a bartender and a teacher, among others.

"There was always an interesting social mix on Harrison, and there still is," Everhart said.

Like Warm Springs Avenue, its east side counterpart, Harrison Boulevard is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Boise city historic district.

McAuley Park, one of the city's smallest at just around a third of an acre, anchors the boulevard on its south end at the three-way intersection of Harrison with Resseguie and 17th streets. The park is named for Councilman Ernest McAuley, who lobbied for its creation as part of a city beautification effort in 1911.

• Learn more at this free Sesquicentennial event: The Fettuccine Forum presents "Boise Neighborhoods: A Short History of Place." Tully Gerlach, a librarian and historian, will speak on the city's early development patterns and the history of Boise's unique sense of place - and whether a sense of place can be duplicated in modern times.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and forum starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Rose Room, 718 W. Idaho St.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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