Experience the Rich Heritage of Boise's Harrison Boulevard
Posted by Lisa Kohl on Monday, July 25th, 2022 at 1:15pm
The story of Boise's Harrison Boulevard has been in the making for more than 100 years.
Imagine being part of a city’s living history – taking tea in the same sunroom once used by one of Idaho’s first governors, or cooking in the same kitchen where J.R. Simplot may have had a billion-dollar epiphany about flash freezing Idaho potatoes, or walking your kids to school down a road that was once lined with the tracks of Boise’s electric trolley car.
Living on the stately, tree-lined street of Harrison Boulevard in the North End is as close as you can get to stepping back in time to Boise’s early days as a fledgling city. When viewing its eclectic homes, most of which were built between 1901 and 1942, you might not guess that the street was Boise’s first "planned community." Yet the imposing American Foursquare and Queen Anne, punctuated with modest bungalows, are a testament to the city’s early mix of upper- and middle-class residents living in close proximity – and harmony.
The iconic Boise street, generally bound by Hill Road to the north and W Hays Street to the southeast, has played an important role in the city throughout the last century. First, as a historic landmark worthy of preserving, and more recently as an important neighborhood and cultural anchor.
When it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, the Harrison Boulevard Historic District comprised 427 residences, the former United Presbyterian Church, and Washington Elementary School.
Once Upon A Time in Boise... The Story of Harrison Boulevard
Originally named 17th Street, the one-mile-long thoroughfare was renamed in honor of President Benjamin Harrison, who famously signed the act that gave Idaho statehood and paid a visit to Boise in 1891. However, at that time, Harrison Boulevard’s charms were yet to be realized: it was still an outlier of downtown Boise – a dusty, vacant stretch with few houses, or trees, to its name.
That began to change in 1910 when developers planted 3,000 elm and maple trees throughout the neighborhood’s numbered streets (including the renamed Harrison Boulevard). Then, in 1916, the boulevard’s iconic landscaped median and street lights were added at the request of the Boulevard Property Owners Association.
This wasn’t the association’s only forward-thinking move. It was around this time that building lots on the boulevard – which were deeper and wider than surrounding streets, and set on the streetcar line – came with deed restrictions requiring houses to cost at least $2,500 to $5,000. In essence, the area around southern Harrison Boulevard became Boise’s first planned community, with homesites selling quickly.
Over the years, the street has been home to magnates and politicians, including J.R. Simplot Company founder Jack Simplot, Morrison-Knudsen founder Harry Morrison, a handful of Idaho Supreme Court Justices, three Boise Mayors and two Idaho governors.
While Harrison Boulevard has long been viewed as a local treasure, residents pushed to make it official. In 1980 the street and adjacent area was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989, it also became a Boise historic district, which means residents of the street may need to get approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission before making external alterations to their homes.
Modern Living in a Boise’s Most Accessible Neighborhood
In addition to large lots and lovingly preserved homes, residents of Harrison Boulevard are situated in the center of Boise’s most walkable neighborhood: the North End. This popular neighborhood enjoys easy access to downtown restaurants and entertainment options, supermarkets, access to 200 miles of foothills trails, and popular parks including Camel’s Back Park, Elm Grove Park and the hip shopping and restaurant district known as Hyde Park.
The shady boulevard and its picturesque homes are a popular pedestrian destination in the summer. In the fall, the street hosts the most popular Halloween party in at least three counties (this is not an exaggeration). Each year for “Halloween on Harrison,” the street is shut down to traffic and transformed into a magnificent block party, with numerous front-yard haunted houses and trick-or-treating opportunities. The free event attracts as many as 6,000 people.
Harrison Boulevard is also the main thoroughfare up to the Bogus Basin Recreation Area, which hosts downhill and Nordic skiing in winter and transforms into a mountain bike park – with mountain coaster – during the summer months.
Residents describe the neighborhood as a close-knit community filled with well-established – and often older – families. In addition, many enjoy being part of the city’s oldest, largest and arguably most well-organized neighborhood association.
Neighbors say that one downside of living on such a popular, central street is traffic. While many homes are set back from the road and include noise-diminishing landscaping, both noise and traffic can be heavy during morning and evening rush hour. However, county officials recently listened to resident feedback about speeding and reduced the street's speed limit to 25 mph.
Harrison Boulevard’s Diverse Array of Homes
The cost of entry for one of Boise’s most famous streets is around $700,000. For that price, you can expect a two-bedroom bungalow in better condition than you would typically expect to see for a starter home – thanks to the area’s coveted address. With such a desirable pedigree, houses on Harrison Boulevard tend to be more expensive than in other Boise neighborhoods, with listed prices ranging from $800,000 to over $2 million.
With an average home tenure of around 20 years, at any given time, you will only find a handful of the neighborhood's 430 homes on the market. The good news – patient homebuyers will be rewarded with a great range of architectural styles, sizes, and price points with which to choose. Homes include smaller Craftsman Bungalows and Colonial Revivals, to a striking Arte Moderne with its curved stucco facade, and American Foursquares with sweeping front porches.
There are also Queen Annes, Neoclassical and Georgian Revivals, Tudor Revival cottages, and Spanish and Dutch Colonials – truly a home for every taste on Harrison Boulevard.
Harrison Boulevard at a Glance
- Location: The Harrison Boulevard Historic District centers on N Harrison Boulevard and extends from the south side of Resseguie St in the south to just past Dora St to the north. The boundaries below Brumback St extend from 16th St to 19th St but include a handful of houses on 15th and 20th streets. Above Brumback St, the district boundaries form a less defined pattern moving as far east as Washington Elementary School (15th St) and as far west as 18th St.
- Distance from Downtown Boise: 2 Minutes
- Distance from the Airport: 16 Minutes
- Walk Score: 61
- Bike Score: 78
- Median Home Value: $945,000
- Average # of Homes Sold in a Year: 24
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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