It’s easy to get lost in time while walking the quiet, tree-lined streets of Boise’s North End neighborhoods. The mix of charming bungalows and family homes seems rooted in an earlier era.
This is no accident. Much of the North End is a delegated historic district and in many neighborhoods, the fronts of homes and buildings are regulated by historic preservation guidelines that specify that buildings must retain the look of past decades.
I suspect I am not the only one who feels a sentimental tug from childhood when wandering these streets. Even the alleys that bisect the blocks bring memories of whizzing bicycles and childhood games of kick- the-can.
There is one particular swath that my friend Candy Miller and I chose to focus on as we explored Boise’s North End — the Hyde Park area. Our adventure began on 13th Street in the heart of the neighborhood’s retail and culinary center. We ducked into shops and gathering places, enjoying the interior as much as the exterior of this delightful corner of Boise.
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It is an unusual thing to find a village within a town. Yet Hyde Park feels much like a village. There are no parking meters here. Instead, wide sidewalks invite strolling, and old-fashioned street lamps stand ready to light the way.
On weekends, pedestrians fill the sidewalks as laughter, music and delectable aromas spill from eateries on the main drag like Parilla’s Grill, Casa Mexico and the 13th Street Pub and Grill. Goodies, an old-time ice cream parlor at 13th and Alturas, draws families who often wander next door to the toy store aptly named G. Willikers. There, shelves are packed with classic wooden toys and retro games. Brett Palmateer, who owns both businesses, felt they complemented each other. They do, and they complement the area as well.
Looking for an unusual gift? You might want to head back up 13th Street to Dunia, a store featuring hand-crafted goods from around the globe made by artisans engaged in fair trade enterprises. If you are after something unique to brighten a corner of your home, check out the shop named Hyde and Seek. The sign at this establishment, at the corner of 13th and Eastman, promises “uncommon goods. “ Or you may want to browse local antique shops in the area.
The buildings in this part of town hark to the past, but step in the doors and you’re likely to find very contemporary activity and a particular brand of Hyde Park hospitality. That is especially true of a new gathering place, Hyde Perks, owned by Chrystal Jones. Expect to be treated like valued friends here, for this is a family operation and this family wants everyone who comes to feel welcome.
Crystal, her sister Peyton or her mother Cheryl are likely to be busy behind the counter preparing steaming cups of coffee or hot chocolate. Maybe Crystal and Peyton’s brother Levi, who convinced the family to move from Spokane to Boise, will drop by.
Candy and I stopped there feeling a little reminiscent. Not so long ago, this shop was the home of a beloved book store. To honor the memory of that store, the bookshelves remain, but they have been repurposed as wall paneling. A cyclist heading down 13th Street in the early evening is depicted in a giant mural on one wall. Look closely and you will see a face familiar to many in Hyde Park. Seated on a bench in the painting by local artist Sarah Terrell is Vincent Echevarria, the barber who once cut the hair of many Hyde Park residents in his nearby barber shop.
There are many reasons to like Hyde Park. Melissa Wood, who lives nearby, said she appreciates the liveliness of the area and enjoys ready access to mountain biking and jogging in the Foothills. She likes being near restaurants and shops and on the doorstep of Downtown. We liked her dog, a sheepdog/poodle mix that waited patiently as we chatted.
Others have enjoyed the area’s traditions, like the December Lantern Parade. This year, kids created lanterns at the Sun Café, lit them with LED “candles” and paraded down the street. In September, the Hyde Park Street Fair reigns.
This fair, first staged in 1979 with a few tables set up in the street, was designed to infuse some vitality into the area. Hyde Park was not always a vibrant place. After the war it began slipping into decay.
Near the end of the ’70s, Hyde Park merchants organized and began efforts to redevelop the commercial area. Interest in historic preservation began to simmer and then boil. Bungalows became hot commodities and people began turning commonplace homes into jewels. As biking and hiking grew in popularity, Hyde Park became a hub of activity for outdoor enthusiasts. And now the Hyde Park Fair draws thousands and boasts of live music, entertainers and a wide range of local and regional artisans. The fair benefits many, with some of the proceeds supporting the North End Neighborhood Association.
Candy and I chatted about change as we wandered toward Camel’s Back Park at the end of 13th Street. This park covers around 11 acres — some on level ground with some of the most popular parts leading upward. On snowy winter days, the hilly side of the park becomes a favorite sledding destination; in summer, beach volleyball on sand courts captures the attention of many. On the day we visited, a couple of youngsters found a quintessentially climbable tree to be particularly fun.
Finally, it was time to head back down 13th Street. I needed to make a stop to reclaim a pair of shoes. They have been made new in Ed Riebe’s old shoe repair shop. Ed knows the business well. His grandfather started the shop, and his dad and then Ed kept the trade going.
Not much has changed inside that shop. Ed’s dog lounges near the door, occasionally opening an eye to greet customers. This shop, its owner and the nearby homes and businesses are all part of the charm of the Hyde Park area, where the old draws the new, and where the comfort and charm of the past wrap current residents and visitors in a nexus of sentiment and delight.
Why buy in Hyde Park?
“Buyers love the tree lined streets of the Hyde Park Neighborhood with homes full of character and rich in architectural history,” according to Kristin Myers with the Lysi Bishop Real Estate Team at Keller Williams Realty Boise. “Others are attracted by easy access to the Foothills’ Ridge to River Trail System, along with the added bonus of nearby coffee shops, restaurants and proximity to Downtown.”
About this series
Longtime West Bench resident Ellie McKinnon, in looking for a new home somewhere in Boise, is exploring each of the city’s neighborhoods by bike — uncovering their best assets, talking to residents, soaking up the vibes — she will pen a column roughly every month that highlights what she’s discovered.
Neighborhoods explored so far
September: West Bench
October: Northeast Boise
November: East Boise
January: South Boise
February: Hyde Park
Housing data for North Boise
Total homes sold
Existing homes sold
New homes sold
Average sale price
Source: Intermountain Multiple Listing Service Inc.