Julia Davis Park is the oldest and one of the largest municipal parks in Boise. It was created by a land donation from Thomas Jefferson Davis in 1907. Since then, it has become one of the best-known parks in Boise thanks to its amenities, events, and central location. Read on to learn everything about Julia Davis Park.
Thomas Jefferson Davis came to Idaho with his brothers in 1863 to stake a mining claim during the Idaho Gold Rush. The mining claim did not end up being profitable, so Davis turned to agriculture. He planted 7,000 apple trees on his land along the Boise River. The orchards turned into big business, so he bought land along the Boise River and the foothills. This land included where Garden City now sits as well as portions of Downtown Boise. In 1871, Davis married Julia McCrumb, who had traveled from Ontario, Canada to visit family in Boise in 1869.
In 1899, Thomas and Julia Davis offered to give some of their land to the City of Boise for a park. Initially, the city refused. When Julia died in 1907, the city paid Thomas Davis one dollar for the deed to 40 acres along the Boise River. Davis required that the land would “always and forever” be named Julia Davis Park and must be used for public purposes. If these rules were not met, the land would be returned to the Davis family. The City of Boise has always upheld that agreement.
Since Thomas Davis’ death in 1908, Boise began making improvements to the land in order to make it an amazing municipal park. In 1916, the Boise Zoo (now known as Zoo Boise) was built. The Davis family donated more land to allow for the zoo to expand. In 1928, a band shell was built.
In 1931, the Morrison-Knudsen Company built the Capitol Boulevard Memorial Bridge next to the park. After the Great Depression, the rose garden was dedicated the the park expanded to its current size from Capitol Boulevard to Broadway Avenue.
After World War II, Julia Davis Park underwent more additions. Union Pacific donated the “Big Mike” steam engine as a permanent fixture. The Boise Gallery of Art (now known as the Boise Art Museum) underwent two expansions. The Bob Gibb Friendship Bridge over the Boise River connected Julia Davis Park to Boise State University’s campus. In 1988, the Idaho Black History Museum was established in the Old Baptist Church.
Art in the Park
Art in the Park is a yearly celebration of arts and crafts, put on by the Boise Art Museum. Every year during the weekend after Labor Day, hundreds of artists showcase and sell their wares to thousands of visitors throughout the entire park. The event is one of the largest arts and crafts shows in the pacific northwest.
Idaho Black History Museum
The museum was established in 1988 in the St. John Baptist Church, but the current museum was built in 1995. It is the oldest black history museum in the Pacific Northwest and stands for Idaho’s rich foundation of history, diversity, and reinvention. The museum has numerous exhibits and provides educational and community outreach programs, including films, musical performances, workshops, and literacy programs.
Idaho State Historical Museum
The Idaho State Historical Museum is the largest and most trafficked museum in the state. The museum’s collection is made up of over 250,000 objects related to Idaho’s history. The main feature is a permanent comprehensive exhibit about the history of Idaho as well as its varied cultures, occupations, experiences, and opportunities. The museum also developed and maintains the Pioneer Village, which contains the oldest buildings in the state of Idaho.
The Rose Garden idea originated in 1935 by a rose garden club called “Cut Worms”. The chairman, H.C. Schuppel, started the garden by planting 2,800 roses and created the second-oldest rose garden in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the bushes came from Portland, Oregon. In 1979, the Memorial Rose Fund was established to help create memorials in the garden for friends and family members. In 1992, the rose garden received its Public Rose Garden Accreditation. The site is a popular space for wedding ceremonies.
Gene Harris Band Shell
Originally built in 1928, the band shell was dedicated to the late jazz musician, Gene Harris, in 2001. The band shell provides concerts year-round to the community. Notable acts to play there have been The Velvet Underground, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Pete Seeger.
Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor Plaza
The plaza is a testament to the strength and resilience that cancer patients and survivors, as well as their families and healthcare providers display when fighting the disease. The $1 million grant to the City of Boise by the Bloch family features a positive mental attitude walk, a Road to Recovery, and a kinetic wind sculpture.
For more information about Julia Davis Park, visit the City of Boise page about the park