Julia Davis Park: An Urban Treasure
Carved out of the wooded area around the Boise River, this convenient downtown park makes good use out of its 89.4 acres. Filled with the fragrant bouquets derived from the blooms of more than 2000 rosebushes and providing a little respite of shade from a hot summer day, Julia Davis Park is a little venture into one of Boise’s landmark sites. But even native and longtime Boiseans may be surprised at how this lovely park first became to be.
In 1862, two brothers from Ohio, Thomas and Frank Davis were traveling through the western United States strictly with gold on their minds. And with good reason—the mining boom of the late 1800’s was in full swing and the untapped Idaho Territory was sitting pristine and ripe for the pickings. Little did they know that their stay over in the Idaho Territory was to become the site of their new home and eventually the capital city of Idaho. By the late 1860’s Thomas had planted over 7,000 apple trees near his mining claim on the Boise River on the very site of what would eventually become Julia Davis Park, stretching his original 160 acres homestead to include an additional 1,150 acres.
He met his soon-to-be steadfast and devoted wife, Julia McCrumb in 1869 and was well on his way to becoming an integral cornerstone in the development of one of Idaho’s largest cities. Devoted and civic-minded patrons of the arts and cultural venues the pair were especially inspired after a visit to Chicago to recreate a park similar to the one they had so thoroughly enjoyed from the “Windy City.” An urban destination created with a vision of nature and beauty working hand-in-hand, manicured gardens and pools of water, shaded spots for families to gather and paths to take advantage of the serene settings. The Davis’ were ready to begin plans for this high-desert town to have a city that would rival those of far more cosmopolitan locations and everyone was on board, except the city of Boise.
A Vision For Boise Residents
In 1899, Thomas tried to persuade the city planners to invest in his grand vision, offering them his prized orchards to be used for such a purpose but the city remained reluctant to consider his offer. Finally, in 1907 Thomas Davis deeded 40 acres to the City of Boise for one dollar on the condition that the park be used primarily as a city gathering place and with the death of his beloved wife in November of that year, that it would be named in her honor.
Ever since, Julia Davis Park has been an oasis of calm and peace amongst the highly-trafficked streets of Boise proper. Many a wedding has been held in the beautiful rose gardens and Treasure Valley fourth-grader will have the memory of visiting the Idaho Historical Museum permanently etched in their brains, learning about Idaho’s rich past and mining heritage. Not far from the museum’s doors and nestled under the canopy of large oaks, is a popular spot for young families; ‘Zoo Boise’ and during the late summer it gains a lot of foot traffic with Boise’s annual “Art in the Park”. A weekend of fun, food and of course, hand-crafted art from many a vendor.
So the next time you are visiting one of the many great venues in Julia Davis Park, raise a glass to the couple that made it possible. Julia and Thomas would be so pleased.