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.

Amenities

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

1887

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

1893

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

1922

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

1924

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

1925

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

1927

Howard Platt Gardens dedicated.

1931

Capitol Boulevard Memorial Bridge opened.

1948

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

1959

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

Depot bell tower

1962

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

1968

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

1971

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

1974

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

1977

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

1990

Morrison Knudsen Corporation purchased the Depot from Union Pacific Railroad.

1993

The refurbished Depot opened with a public ceremony.

1996

The City of Boise took possession of the Depot.

1997

Amtrak’s last passenger train rolled out of Boise.

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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