History of the Boise Depot

One of Boise’s most prominent landmarks, the Boise Depot is a beautiful Spanish-style structure operated by the Boise Parks and Recreation Department that provides a unique historic setting for weddings, corporate parties, business receptions, luncheons, meetings and community events.

Situated on the rim at the south end of Capitol Boulevard, the panoramic view from the Depot patio is a stunning glimpse of the city skyline and the foothills. In the evening, the 96-foot bell tower is bathed in floodlights and is seen throughout the city.

Built in 1925 for use as a Union Pacific railroad depot, the building was designed by New York architects and was heralded as “the most beautiful structure of its kind in the west.” A $3.4 million renovation completed in 1993 returned the building to its original state with beige interior walls and trim painted in red, blue and yellow. The lobby’s Spanish trusses feature decorative rail cars. Two sets of glass-paned wooden doors lead visitors from a large brick plaza on the north side of the building and also from the train tracks on the south side of the building.


The Great Hall, a soaring 3,542 square-foot multi-story atrium, once served as the building’s waiting room. The area can accommodate 300 people with 165 for sit-down events. Six arched entrances and upper story windows allow a flood of natural light to enter the Great Hall with its airy 44-foot ceiling. Overlooking the Main Hall is the bride’s room. Accessed by matching stair cases, the bride’s room provides a dramatic entrance into the main area. Couches and chairs provide comfortable seating and a relaxing dressing area for formal events. At the west end of the building, the original Barkalow Brothers wood and glass newsstand once provided train passengers with reading materials, snacks and other items. A catering kitchen provides serving space and a double-sized industrial refrigerator.

Platt Gardens

Built by Union Pacific in 1927, the Depot gardens feature a winding walkway, benches, a koi pond, a monument of volcanic rock and planter beds with seasonal flowers. A favorite site for wedding photos and class pictures, the park provides a splendid view of the city and quiet areas for reflection. The Platt gardens were designed by Spanish landscape architect Ricardo Espino.

History of the Boise Depot


Boise City’s first depot was built on the Bench a short distance from the present building.


Oregon Short Line built stone depot at 10th and Front Streets.


Contract between Oregon Short Line and Boise Chamber of Commerce was signed to provide “through train” service by way of the City of Boise.


New York architects Carrere, Hastings, Shreve and Lamb prepared plans for station on
the present site.


Thousands turned out to see the first transcontinental engine steam into the new station.


Howard Platt Gardens dedicated.


Capitol Boulevard Memorial Bridge opened.


Six passenger trains rolled into the Boise station each day: The City of Portland, the Portland Rose and the Idahoan.


Union Pacific donated #2295 (“Big Mike”) to the City of Boise and placed in Julia Davis Park.

Depot bell tower


The Barkalow Brothers newsstand closed because of the decline in the number of rail passengers.


The U.S. Post Office discontinued mail freight on the Portland Rose. Full airmail service began in 1969.


The last Portland Rose passenger train pulled out of the Depot.


The Union Pacific Mainline Depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Amtrak’s Pioneer passenger train began service between Seattle and Salt Lake City.


Morrison Knudsen Corporation purchased the Depot from Union Pacific Railroad.


The refurbished Depot opened with a public ceremony.


The City of Boise took possession of the Depot.


Amtrak’s last passenger train rolled out of Boise.

Boise Depot Architectural Model - History on Display

Visitors to the historic Boise Depot can browse multiple artifacts and pieces of railroad memorabilia from throughout the region. One of the larger artifacts on display is an architectural model of the Boise Depot, created by David Knoll. The model has been on display since the early 1990s and was commissioned during the Morrison Knutson-led restoration and renovation of the Boise Depot during that period.

Knoll was tapped by architect George Notter to build the depot model in 1991 while working for his father’s firm – Knoll Architectural Models. Notter served as Morrison Knudsen’s restoration and renovation architect.

The depot architectural model includes a roof that can be removed to reveal a detailed impression of the interior of the Boise Depot. Knoll demonstrated this unique feature when he visited the Boise Depot in June 2023. The model was expertly crafted down to the finest details, including miniature trusses and a recreation of the artwork painted on them, chandeliers, fans, the well-known depot benches, floor tiles and more. All of these details were completed to scale and closely resemble what visitors to the depot experience today during open houses, tours and events.

The architectural model remains prominently displayed at the depot for visitors to enjoy and will continue to be a treasured piece of Boise history for generations to come. It is protected by plexiglass to preserve the masterpiece.

Anyone interested in viewing the model is invited to attend a Boise Depot open house, held Sundays and Mondays each week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the building is closed on legal holidays). Free tours are offered each Sunday at noon and 1:30 p.m. with knowledgeable guides. All ages are welcome, and no registration is required.

Model creator and builder David Knoll visits his masterpiece at the Boise Depot in June 2023
Model creator and builder David Knoll visits his masterpiece at the Boise Depot in June 2023.

Big Mike

Big Mike, a Mikado-type steam locomotive, was built in 1920 by the American Locomotive Co.

The powerful 2-8-2 Mikado was designed to include a large firebox supported by a two-wheel trailing truck located behind the rear driving wheels. The locomotive acquired the name Mikado because the first 2-8-2 engines were built for export to Japan.

Nicknamed Mike by railroad men, it was a very successful type of locomotive. More than 14,000 were manufactured between 1920 and 1944.

Boise's Big Mike was used as an all-purpose freight engine along Union Pacific's main line from North Platte, NE to Fruitland, Idaho.

Big Mike

A New Home

Engine No. 2295 was "retired" by the Union Pacific Railroad and donated to the city of Boise in 1956. The locomotive was subsequently moved to 3rd Street entrance to Julia Davis Park.

On Dec. 9, 2007, Big Mike was moved to a new home on a siding on the east side of the Boise Depot, a former Union Pacific passenger depot located in the heart of Boise. Hundreds of people watched the move, which occurred at midnight on the cold winter's night. The "tender," which carried water and fuel for the engine, was separated from the engine and moved on Dec. 6, 2007.

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