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You Asked: Why is Boise sometimes called “Boise City”?

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You Asked

Whether you call it boy-see or boy-zee… Boise goes by many names. 

If you’re talking about the municipal government (like we often do at BoiseDev), you call it the City of Boise. There’s also the city’s green-friendly nickname the City of Trees. But, sometimes on official government documents, like the U.S. Census, Boise goes by a third name: City of Boise City. 

Huh?

This might seem like a clerical error, but it goes all the way back to the city’s earliest roots. Boise’s charter from January 11, 1866, which predates Idaho statehood, incorporated the city as the City of Boise City. We might not use this title much anymore, but it does still crop up occasionally. 

You can see it on some maps, on the historic Boise City National Bank building downtown, and more. It sometimes leads to strange syntax, like on Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s public health orders in 2020: “…Mayor of the city of Boise City.”

Puffery?

Dan Everhart, an outreach historian with the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, told BoiseDev this is not a special phenomenon. He said western cities incorporated in the 1800s have a long history of having “city” at the end of their names.

Everhart said early settlers liked to add city to their towns to make them seem more impressive than they actually were, similar to how buildings in western towns often were built to make the structures look larger than they actually were from the street. 

“It was self-aggrandizement and a way of puffing up the town,” Everhart said. “This is reflected across the country where the word city just is tagged on to the name almost as a way to promote the town and its sort of the city naming equivalent of a false front building.”

Examples of this include Garden City, Idaho City, Baker City in Oregon, and Dodge City in Kansas. Everhart said often cities would drop the city suffix from their name after they grew into actual cities, but occasionally they stuck with the name or added it back to draw in tourists interested in the west. 

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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