Nestled by the Boise River, just a stone’s throw from the State Capitol lies a 4.2 square mile urban stretch of businesses and attractions.
What was once a field of gardens is now a city with more than 12,000 residents. In this edition of Inside Idaho, we take a look at Garden City’s rich history and how it got its name.
City of Gardens
In 1890, a cattle rancher named Thomas J. Davis bought over 600 acres of land that he called GI (Government Island) Ranch.
Davis was known for leasing land to Chinese immigrants who came to Idaho to mine for gold but preferred gardening and selling their produce which included strawberries and onions.
Some eventually raised and sold hogs. Another source of income was their garbage collection service where they went through Boise area neighborhoods to pick up edible garbage to feed to their hogs.
“The Chinese gardens and their row-crop farming acumen are the basis of the city’s name as well as that of the city’s principal thoroughfare, Chinden Boulevard,” the gardencityidaho.org website notes.
While the gardens are gone, the Chinese immigrant community made a huge contribution to the heritage and culture of the city that stands today.
In 1949, the Boise City Council passed an ordinance banning gambling. This then prompted a group of businessmen to push for the incorporation of Garden City that same year. Not long after, several gambling houses lined Chinden Boulevard.
As the gambling houses became popular, more restaurants, bars, and employee housing were built along Chinden. While gambling was banned statewide in 1954, the businesses that were started because of the gambling houses still remained.
Eventually, other attractions would be brought into the city including the Western Idaho Fair, Hawks Stadium, and many wineries and breweries.
For a full rundown of the city’s history, click here.