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Garden City is thought by many to be a neighborhood within the city of Boise, but it is actually a separate municipality almost completely surrounded by Boise. The city has a fascinating and somewhat sordid history (see below), but it has grown into an eclectic, interesting place to live and work.
The population of Garden City is about 11,000 people. Garden City is essentially a strip of land between State Street and Chinden Blvd., from Five Mile to the northwest to the 184 freeway connector on the south end. The residential areas surround the business district which lies mainly along Chinden Blvd. There are an abundance of restaurants and other eateries as well as shops and businesses of all kinds. The thoroughfares of State Street and Chinden Blvd., as well as the connecting streets of Glenwood, and Veterans Memorial Parkway, are heavily travelled streets due to their use by commuters to downtown Boise from Eagle, Star and other communities to the north and west. As a result, these streets are lined with businesses frequented by patrons from throughout the Treasure Valley.
For wine or beer connoisseurs, Garden City has become the "go to place" in the valley to sample a local brews or vintages. What was initially, a brewers haven with Crooked Fence Brewing Company, Payette Brewing Company, and Haff Brewing all calling Garden City home, has now become popular with local wineries. Five wineries have now set up shop around 44th Street: Split Rail Winery, Syringa Winery, Cinder Wines, Telaya Wine Co., and Coil Wines.
Recreation abounds in Garden City. The entire city fronts the Boise river providing easy access to fishing and swimming, as well as to the hiking/biking trails along the greenbelt. In the heart of Garden City is the Western Idaho Fairgrounds and Expo Idaho, which host concerts, trade shows, and other events throughout the year in addition to the Western Idaho State Fair. LeBois Park is also here, with horse races running throughout the summer months. Boise's minor league baseball team, the Boise Hawks, a farm team for the Colorado Rockies professional baseball team, has its home field here. Hot air ballooning is also big here, and balloons can be seen taking off almost daily throughout the summer.
Garden City is clearly divided into lower income housing to the south and upscale neighborhoods to the north. The older homes built during the first half of the 1900s and the mobile home parks that replaced some of these older neighborhoods are tucked in behind the businesses the line Chinden Blvd. As the city has pushed for more development, the areas along the Boise River to the north have attracted upscale, custom home communities by some of the valleys' top builders. As a result there is very little middle ground for housing here. Garden City's home buying options are either small, older, less expensive homes, or large expensive estates along the river.
Garden City is almost entirely surrounded by the city of Boise making it something of an "island" within the city. Coincidently, the area that now makes up most of Garden City was once an actual island. At one time, the Boise River channel was once much different than it is today. The river spilt forming a large island of about 600-700 acres. In 1863, when the US Army came to the area and started building Fort Boise, this island was assigned by the government to grow hay for the soldiers horses. By 1884, the army's need for horses (and hay) had diminished, so the government started selling off what was then dubbed "Government Island".
At around this same time, an entrepreneur, Tom Davis arrived in Boise to mine gold. He also became involved with farming and ranching. Parcel by parcel he bought up most of "Government Island" and started growing farm crops in addition to hay for his cattle. By 1890 he had accumulated 650 acres which made up most of what is now known as Garden City.
Chinese immigrants started coming to the Treasure Valley during the gold rush of the 1860s. When little gold was found in the Boise basin, many of these immigrants turned to farming. Tom Davis was friendly to the Chinese immigrants at a time when they were met with prejudice and discrimination. He leased land to them for farming, and they developed Chinese gardens throughout the area. After Tom Davis died in 1908, his heirs began selling off the land, and the Chinese Gardens gradually disappeared. However, the name Garden City endured. The cities name is not the only nod to this time in history; Garden City's main street, Chinden Blvd is a contraction of the words "Chinese Garden".
In 1947, the Idaho Legislature passed a law allowing slot machines within municipalities. Boise declined to allow slot machines, but a group of local businessmen saw an opportunity. They set about making their own "gambling city" in the valley, and thus the municipality of Garden City was born. Garden City boomed. Money from gambling poured in, and the city took advantage by building an infrastructure. A city hall, police department, community pool, and other buildings sprung up. The boom was short lived . In 1953 the state legislature reversed course and determined that slot machines constituted gambling, and was thus illegal under the state constitution.
The city moved quickly to fill the void left by the exodus of slot machines. Building codes were relaxed to attract businesses of all types. Night Clubs, adult book stores, slaughterhouses, and junk yards were some of the less desirable businesses that took advantage of cheap land and few regulations. Garden City soon had a reputation for weekend drinking and prostitution, and garnered the nicknames "Saturday Night Town" and "Garbage City".
By 1970, the town had a rough image. The increasing popularity of mobile homes during that time also changed the landscape of the area. Many of the small homes built during the 1940s were razed to build mobile home parks. At the same time, the city started to set different priorities. The focus shifted toward "family friendly" as residents become more vocal and more involved in the planning process. Zoning ordinances started to change. By the 1980s, there was a concerted effort to bring in better businesses, and to build new housing developments, particularly along the river.
Today, Garden City continues to experience the growing pains of a small city, but the residents here take pride in their city and in its history.
In recent years Garden City has become something of a local mecca for artists, musicians, and artisans. They have been drawn here due to the low rents for large spaces in which they can practice and perfect their crafts. Small art galleries have sprung up along Chinden Blvd., followed by a number of music studios. There are also a number of performance art studios.
The area has also become popular with wine makers as well as microbreweries, also drawn here due to inexpensive retail and warehouse space. Garden City is now home to five wineries making local varietals, and three breweries creating a wide array of craft brews.
Housing development in Garden City is an ever evolving dilemma. There really is no "middle class" here as it applies to homes. The small bungalow-style homes built in the 1940s and 1950s, and the trailer parks of the 1970s sit behind the commercial developments along the south end of Garden City. These house lower income individuals and families. At the north end of the city are the exclusive, large custom home developments that front the Boise River which house some of the more wealthy valley residents.
The future of housing development in Garden City is still a bit unclear. City officials continue to push for gentrification, and the renovation or replacement of deteriorating trailer parks and residences. Older communities, particularly along the river have become the target of developers wishing to build higher priced homes. Due to its close proximity to downtown, it seem to only be a matter of time before Garden City is transformed into a desirable alternative to some of the more expensive Boise suburbs (eg., the North End).
Information courtesy of Intermountain Multiple Listing Service. Information provided by IMLS is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. IDX information is provided exclusively for consumers' personal, non‐commercial use, it may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing. IMLS does not assume any liability for missing or inaccurate data. All listings provided by IMLS are marked with the official IMLS IDX icon.