In a Harper’s Magazine article of 1974, L.J. Davis noted that “if things go on as they are, Boise stands an excellent chance of becoming the first American city to have deliberately eradicated itself.” Davis was referencing the recent wave of demolitions, which had washed over the city. Under the guise of “urban renewal”, these demolitions had robbed Boiseans of dozens of historic structures, and had cut a swath through the downtown core that is still visible today. Much of this destruction was the result of the Boise Redevelopment Agency’s misguided attempt to build a massive downtown mall complete with shopping, parking, and an absence of historic character or distinction.
But Davis went on to note that the citizens of Boise were beginning to notice the loss of their cultural heritage. He remarked that “Boiseans are an amiable, even-tempered people…not long ago, though, a great many of them made the common discovery that cars were parked where their childhoods used to be, that their city was in serious danger of ceasing to exist, and that directly in the path of the bulldozers lay virtually all that remained of their architectural heritage. It made them mad as hell.” In describing the nascent historic preservation movement in Boise, Davis was describing grass roots efforts to save the remainder of the downtown core. He was speaking of individuals such as Joan Carley and Mary Lesser who in 1972 banded together with others to form the Idaho Historic Preservation Council (now Preservation Idaho), a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of Idaho and Boise’s heritage.
For 40 years, Preservation Idaho has worked to protect historic places of significance to Idahoans. Though at times limited in its ability to affect real change outside of the Treasure Valley, Preservation Idaho has worked across the state in small ways and large to preserve the architecture and history that makes Idaho unique. Read some of those stories, but know that we cannot continue this effort without your help. Consider joining, donating, or volunteering for the organization and make a difference in your hometown or across the state.