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  • Writer's pictureJenna King


Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Boise is made up of neighborhoods full of unique offerings and charming homes. No neighborhood has such a historical significance as Boise’s East End. From murderous felons to the first geothermal-heated home, the East End is a monument to Boise’s colorful history while offering amazing amenities to current residents.

The History of Boise’s East End

Boise’s East End neighborhood holds the origins of the City of Trees. While fur trappers and emigrants from the Oregon Trail had visited Boise Valley since 1842, it wasn’t until gold was discovered in Boise Basin in 1862 that the area saw an influx of settlers. Fort Boise Park and Military Reserve Park, tucked into the northwest corner of the East End, are remnants of this time. The fort was established in 1863 to provide protection from Native Americans.

Warm Springs Architecture

Warm Springs Avenue boasts some of the most original and gorgeous architecture in the city. You’ll mainly find Victorian, Queen Anne, and Neo-Classical homes, and, of course, a castle.

The avenue’s origins trace back to 1890 when prominent businessmen funded a project to drill for geothermal water. C.W. Moore, a local banker, built his home at the corner of Warm Springs Avenue and Walnut Street, becoming known as the first home in the U.S. to be heated by geothermal water. Other wealthy Boiseans followed suit, building homes along the avenue.

The area was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and designated a local historic district by the City of Boise in 1996. You can learn more about the homes and view photos at the Idaho Architectural Project’s website.

Boise’s Natatorium

Perhaps one of the most fascinating structures in Boise’s East End is the Natatorium.

The Natatorium was built in 1892 and was a hot spot for Boiseans. The building used to hold the largest indoor swimming pool in the U.S., Turkish baths, a bar, rooms to play cards and billiards, and dining rooms. It rose six stories, with four floors of galleries overlooking the pools. Unfortunately, a storm in 1934 damaged the building and it was demolished. However, you can still be a part of Boise history by visiting the Natatorium as it is now. The public pool is still a draw to residents, with visitors enjoying a dip in the pool that still exists and the added hydrotube slide.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary

A penitentiary might not sound like the perfect place to bring your family, but this historic site now boasts interesting historical displays, family-friendly events, and gorgeous outdoor spots.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary hosted prisoners from 1872 to 1973. Both men and women prisoners were held within the walls, with the most famous being Harry Orchard. Orchard confessed to killing more than 17 people, including a former governor of Idaho.

One of the most popular events currently held at the Old Idaho Penitentiary is Frightened Felons, a spooktacular party held during Halloween. Several groups have claimed that the penitentiary is haunted, with the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” show even conducting an investigation on site. After all, 10 people were executed on the grounds!

While the location may have previously hosted felons, now you’ll find visitors learning about Idaho’s history. You can even access a Table Rock trailhead from the Penitentiary’s parking lot.

Boise’s East End is full of history, charm, and beautiful homes. If you’d love to learn more about the neighborhood or tour any of the homes for sale, please let me know. I love showing people around my favorite city and helping them find the perfect neighborhood.

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