150 Boise icons: Table Rock

awebb@idahostatesman.com csewell@idahostatesman.comJuly 2, 2013 

Table Rock Restoration, graffiti cleanup, volunteers

Did you know? Table Rock’s close relationship to the capital city continues to grow and evolve. The area is part of the Ridge to Rivers trail system. Five Ridge to Rivers trails crisscross the area. Table Rock is also a spot to see wildflowers in the late spring, including arrowleaf balsam root, native pink phlox, wild rose and many more.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

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    The Idaho Statesman will run the last icon in the "150 Boise Icons" series on Sunday, July 7.

    Mark Baltes, chairman of the History Committee with the Boise City Department of Arts and History, recipient of the 2011 Mayor's Award for Excellence in History, and Dan Everhart, a board member of Preservation Idaho and architectural historian with the Idaho Transportation Department, will join reporter Anna Webb for an online chat from noon to 1 p.m., Monday, July 8.

    They will take questions and comments at IdahoStatesman.com about Boise's icons and city history. What are your favorite icons? What wasn't on the list but should have been? Do you have stories to share about local icons and historic sites? And why are Boiseans so crazy about retro drive-ins?

    Join the conversation.

    Anna Webb: 377-6431

Table Rock, one of the most familiar landscapes in the city, is really several icons in one.

First, there's the geology. The flat formation off Old Penitentiary Road is dotted with small caves and tiny crevasses along its slopes. It stands more than 3,600 feet high.

Table Rock owes its existence to Lake Idaho, the giant body of water that stretched from the Owyhees to Weiser, and from the Boise Front to Hagerman around 8 million years ago. Geologists say collections of fine lake sand formed Table Rock's distinct ledge-like shape. Geothermal springs cemented it into sandstone.

Lake Idaho eventually drained away through Hell's Canyon, leaving behind notable formations like Table Rock.

Human beings have interacted with Table Rock in many ways. Shoshone tribal members used the rock as a lookout. In the years shortly after pioneers platted the city of Boise in 1863, residents began flocking to the geothermal waters of Kelly Hot Springs, just east of Table Rock's slopes.

Table Rock was the source of the sandstone that built some of Boise's first structures, including the Old Pen.

Table Rock's "built environment" provides even more mini-icons.

In 1931, Boisean Ward Rolfe and a group of his friends from Boise High School drove a Model T Ford up the hill the year they graduated and formed a giant letter "B" out of rocks on Table Rock's southern slope.

"We decided Boise needed a B. So we went up there and put it up there," Rolfe told the Idaho Statesman in a 2006 interview.

Rolfe died in 2011 at the age of 100, but the B remains - painted and re-painted in the colors of high schools from across the Valley.

The cross on Table Rock is also an icon. Like Boise's Ten Commandments monument - installed by the Eagles following the popular "Ten Commandments" film - the Table Rock cross has its roots in 1950s popular culture.

Boisean Glenn Lungren, a member of the Jaycees service club, saw an episode of "This is Your Life" on television about a mail carrier who built a cross in his town. Inspired, Lungren kicked off a drive to raise money for a similar cross in Boise. The drive succeeded and the Jaycees built the 60-foot cross in 1956 on Department of Corrections land.

In the 1970s, in response to questioned about a religious symbol on public property, the Department of Lands sold the .071 acre where the cross sits to the Jaycees for $100.

Over the next decades, the cross continued to be a lightning rod for opposing groups. Standing on Table Rock amidst broadcast antennas, it inspired conversation, marches to the Capitol and letters to the editor from fans and detractors alike.

Some wish it gone. Some moved to Boise because they fell in love with it. Some see it as a beacon of faith, others as nothing more significant than a familiar white light on the hill.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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