Ada County has a rich historical heritage, despite its relative youth. The county was formed in 1864, a year after Fort Boise was relocated to its present location. Situated on the Boise River, the county was at the intersection of the Oregon Trail and supply routes to the Boise Basin gold rush. Because Ada County was at a crossroads, it attracted a wide spectrum of cultures and occupations.
Ada County has been home to a dozen cities and towns in the last century and a half. Some of those settlements, such as Ustick and Orchard, are now only historical footnotes. But all of those places are part of the fabric of Ada County’s historical heritage.
The Ada County Historic Preservation Council is dedicated to identifying and preserving that heritage. Members of the council are appointed by the county commissioners and meet on a monthly basis.
The council has several roles. Each year, it identifies and publicizes “county treasures” — sites and structures reflecting the heritage of Ada County. Past honorees have included the Kuna Grange Hall, the “double silos” in Meridian and the hot springs well house near the old Idaho State Penitentiary. You can see a complete list of past county treasures at the council’s website: https://adacounty.id.gov/Historic-Preservation. Anyone can nominate a site or structure for inclusion as a county treasure by contacting the council.
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Council members actively participated in the second statewide historic preservation conference, held last fall in Moscow. The next conference will be in 2017 and will likely be held in Boise. The council expects to be an active participant.
Each spring, the council recognizes a person or entity through the “Making History” award, designed to recognize those who are shaping our future history. Past honorees have included industrialist J.R. Simplot, architect Charles Hummel and historian Arthur Hart. This year’s honoree was David Leroy, former lieutenant governor and attorney general of Idaho. Leroy is one of the nation’s foremost Abraham Lincoln scholars and has done much to promote awareness of President Lincoln and his influence on the development of Idaho.
In past years, the council has sponsored a historic writing competition for local grade school students. Additionally, council members regularly schedule visits to third- and fourth-grade classes to speak about the history of our county. Most of the members of the council have had a lifetime interest in history, and these school activities could spark a similar interest that will carry through to future generations.
In the months to come, the council will update its activities in these pages. In the meantime, meetings are open to the public; your input is welcome and needed as the council strives to identify and preserve Ada County’s historic heritage.
Michael Oths is an Ada County Preservation Council member.