We Know Boise Real Estate

The Bench: Boise's Cultural and Historical Melting Pot

Posted by Lisa Kohl on Thursday, March 24th, 2022 at 12:25pm

The Boise Bench neighborhood in Idaho

The Boise Bench—known as “The Bench” by locals—is a multicultural hub of character, diversity, and eclectic personality.

Spreading nearly 10 square miles, The Bench is a collection of eight centrally-located neighborhoods just up the hill from Downtown Boise. Individually unique, Bench communities date back to Boise’s first settlers, and they wear their deep-rooted history like a custom-made style. Spanning over 100 years, Boise Bench neighborhoods are a never-know-what-you’ll-find adventure of home designs, trends, culinary diversity, retail oddities, and architectural artistry.

The Bench is where traditional and contemporary converge. Here, forgotten properties find new life, and a home’s age is seen as personality. Down any street, you’ll find modern kitchens alongside original stone fireplaces and mid-century architectural wonders nestled between brand-new builds and early 1900s estates.

Whether you’re touring a home with a secret basement speakeasy or waving to Betty the Washer Woman, Bench’s residents love living among the eclectic, off-beat atmosphere.

Why Boiseans Love Calling The Bench Home

With Bench homeowners only minutes away from work, play, and everything in between, it’s hard to beat The Bench’s premier location. You’ll find a deep sense of community, family-friendly amenities, and that classic Boise charm inside each neighborhood. Inviting and ripe with individuality, The Bench is also one of Boise’s most affordable areas, intermingling first-time home buyers and young professionals with lifelong residents.

The Bench is Minutes From Everything

Right in the heart of the city, Bench residents are close to the best of what Boise has to offer. Each neighborhood is highly walkable and bikeable, and has direct access to the city’s main transportation arteries: The Connector, I-84, and Federal Way. No matter where you are, the Airport, Greenbelt, Boise River, Boise State University, and Downtown are only a short trip from a Boise Bench front door.

While its central location makes heading into different parts of the city easy, The Bench is home to a rich array of locally-owned and culturally-diverse eateries, shops, and markets, meaning many residents have everything they need right down the street.

It's Unique in all the Right Ways

The Bench is surrounded by an urban-yet-tucked-away feel where, while close-to-it-all, streets stay calm and neighborhoods remain quiet thanks to a sound barrier of full-grown foliage. Almost like stepping into a different era, its soft serenity harkens back to the first homeowners, adding charming character to the community.

Under the shade of those same cloud-scraping trees, Bench neighborhoods hold architectural gems, down-the-street comforts, and a booming culinary scene. From a flight of locally-sourced, small-batch ice cream at The Stil to a French-bistro dinner at Petite 4, there’s always a new tastebud treat to try. 

Whether you’re enjoying a relaxing Sunday drive or watching a “best-pun” contest at The Lounge at the End of the Universe, each neighborhood, commercial area, and restaurant feels like a throwback (in more ways than one) to Boise’s early roots.

With “Boise nice” practically invented to describe the eccentric neighborhoods, the communities thrives on that old-fashioned Boise spirit, creating a casual familiarity for anyone who visits The Bench.

Home Comes with Character, Quirks, and a Long-Lived History

Part of The Bench’s charm comes from over 100 years of home styles, trends, and designs. Spanish Mission, Colonial Revival, European Cottages, Cape Cods, Tudors—each pocket neighborhood holds something special.

Luxury Boise Bench home on Crescent Rim Drive

Enter a 1940s Tudor in the Central Bench, and you’ll find original hardwood floors and the fireplaces that warmed families through Idaho’s frigid winters. Head to the Borah and Hillcrest neighborhoods, and streets are dotted with a variety of mid-century modern and ranch-style homes. In the Depot Bench, Crescent Rim Drive's million-dollar, turn-of-the-century marvels bring the city's best views—their magnificent plots are unmatched when it comes to enjoying the nearby 4th of July fireworks show and the Boise Balloon Classic.

After the area’s building surge ended in the 1980s, Bench homes started to be seen as undesirable, and they went ignored for many years. That all changed in the early 2000s when adventurous Boiseans saw the hidden treasures and began restoring the historic homes. Today, it’s not uncommon to find listings in near-original conditions, majorly remodeled properties, and newly constructed houses. With an assortment of homes to choose from, The Bench brings homebuyers a wide variety of value, accessibility, and architectural diversity.

Vintage and Eclectic, The Bench Has a Home For Everyone

Primarily built between the 1940s and 1990s, most Bench homes for sale feature original hardwood floors, brick exteriors, eclectic stylings and designs, and comparatively modest floor plans to today's contemporary homes.

While each Bench neighborhood is individual, you’ll typically find older properties perfect for DIYers, moderately-sized, renovated family homes, or well-placed million-dollar estates.

  • As the Vista, Central Bench, and Liberty Park neighborhoods move closer to retail sectors, homes are generally simpler, feature minor updates, and sit on smaller lots.
  • In the Borah, Hillcrest, Depot Bench, and Morris Hill neighborhoods, you’re likely to find mid-century modern and ranch-style homes situated on larger, family-centered homesites.
  • The Hillcrest neighborhood in the south and the Central Rim and Depot Bench neighborhoods in the north trace the Bench’s scenic rims. Their grand homes sit on impressive lots and bring sweeping views.

The Quintessential Boise Bench Eateries Shaping Local Cuisine

Along with a broad assortment of homes, The Bench hosts a myriad of restaurants, diners, quick-bites, and desert stops from a range of different cultures. As a few of our favorite spots, these eateries are not only steeped in The Bench's classic, off-beat atmosphere, but they're also pushing Boise’s whole culinary scene to new levels.

The Stil: A widely-popular ice cream dream, The Stil offers a rotating list of custom-crafted creamy concoctions, unique flavors, vegan options, and 21-and-over ice creams infused with bourbon, whiskey, cabernet, stouts, and more.

Lee’s Candies: This hand-made chocolate and candy shop has been serving Boise incredible treats since 1947, weaving a little bit of Boise's story into every creation.

BBQ4Life: First finding its way into Boise’s heart as a food truck, BBQ4Life bridges the gap between traditional favorites and meatless meals by offering one-of-a-kind vegan BBQ.

The Boise Bench delicious Petite 4 restaurant

Red Bench Pizza: This old-world, Neapolitan-style pizza place brings the farm-to-table movement to The Bench. Red Bench Pizza builds everything from scratch, ensuring every slice is 100% Idaho-made.

Tango’s Empanadas: This quick-serve kitchen is a Boise favorite, featuring authentic, on-the-go Argentinian deliciousness with every hot and fresh empanada.

Petite 4: Topping the in-house list, Petite 4 is a niche, retro-chic French-inspired bistro. The menu is inventive and changing, and its intimate space brings a whimsical and laid-back dining adventure.

Big Bun: Started in 1954, the original Big Bun provides Boiseans with that old-fashioned drive-in experience. As one of the first burger joints on The Bench, it’s become an area icon.

Boise’s Story: How The Bench Was Built

When the first settlers traveling the Oregon Trail made camp along the Boise River in the 1800s, they looked out at the Bench's steep, rocky, stair-stepping plateaus, and its name was born. Resembling a city-wide bench running like a wall along the river, The Bench is one of Boise’s many striking geological features. Several of these “steps”—all that remains of the ancient Boise River Channel—rise up from the river and lead into Idaho's high-desert landscape.

As the years passed, farmers took to the open space and nutrient-rich soil. In 1925, the Union Pacific Railroad finished the construction of Boise’s historic Train Depot. Once roads and automobiles made traveling up the hill easier, Boiseans took advantage of the Depot Bench and Central Rim neighborhood’s incredible views.

The Bench offered its first residents something different than the urban, compact neighborhoods to the North. It was affordable, had a reasonable Downtown commute, and had the room to grow—three factors that keep The Bench popular with homebuyers today.

Bench Neighborhood Schools & Education

Boise Bench school choices and boundaries vary by neighborhood location, but most students attend Monroe, Hillcrest, or Jefferson Elementaries, South Junior High, and Borah High School. The Bench’s prime location also makes commuting to Boise’s public, charter, and private schools a breeze, ensuring the right school for any Boise learner.

The Borah neighborhood also houses Idaho's second-largest private high school, Bishop Kelly, a Catholic school founded in 1964. The school’s modern approach to learning, STEM, and faith, as well as continually ranking as one of the best schools in the state for athletics, makes it a highly appealing choice for students across the Treasure Valley.

Beautiful Boise Bench home surrounded by full grown trees

Boise Bench Destinations and Must-See Charms

The Bench holds some of Boise's finest (and quirkiest) attractions. From diving into history or teeing off on a pro course, these neighborhood exclusives are just a few things that make The Bench so special.

Boise Depot: A beautiful Spanish-style beacon against The Bench’s northern rim, The Boise Depot is unmistakable. The Depot hosts tours, event space, and the lush Platt Gardens, 7-acres of winding walking paths, ponds, volcanic rock monuments, and seasonal displays of native greenery.

Hillcrest Country Club: The Hillcrest Country Club has brought a world-class golfing experience to the Treasure Valley since 1925. Host of the Boise Open professional tournament, the Club’s incredible pedigree also brings sweeping views of the Bench, foothills, and Owyhee Mountains.

Morris Hill Cemetery: This historic cemetery predates most Bench homes. Serving as a resting place for Boise history for over 100 years, its tombstones, secluded lawns, and towering trees reflect the growth of its neighborhood and city. The Morris Hill Cemetery Walking Tour Map guides you through a long list of famous Boiseans, giving a glimpse at those who pioneered the life we live today.

South Pool: Built during The Bench’s 1950 surge, South Pool is one of two above-ground public pools in Boise. With striking Art Deco design elements, this relatively smaller pool transports you back to a simpler time.

Borah Pool: Inside the grass fields and playgrounds of Borah Park, you’ll find the Borah Pool. With diving boards, lap lanes, a kiddie pool, and a Splash Pad, this public swimming pool is the perfect cure to the summer heat.

Kootenai Street: A must-visit, Kootenai Street holds some of Boise's best examples of historic, mid-century architecture. With large windows, flat lines, muted curves, and open designs intended to coexist with the natural surroundings, the striking style is beautiful, artistic, and a prominent example of Boise Bench eclecticness.

The Bench at a Glance

  • Location: Just south of Downtown, The Bench’s eight neighborhoods trace the Train Depot, stretch from Vista Avenue to the Connector, and border I-84 and the Airport. Central to it all, each community has quick access to the city’s primary thoroughfares.
  • Distance from Downtown Boise: 8 Minutes
  • Distance from the Airport: 10 Minutes
  • Walk Score: 65
  • Bike Score: 76
  • Median Home Value: $447,250
  • Average Rent: $1,557
  • Median Age of Home: 1961
  • Average # of Homes Sold in a Year: 700
  • Nearby Things To Do: 8/10

Boise Real Estate Agent Lisa Kohl

Lisa Kohl

Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals. From Southeast Boise to the North End, up to Eagle and west to Meridian, or right in the middle of the Boise Bench and downtown - We Know Boise.

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