Union Pacific Railroad Depot 1925

In memory of
Marilyn Shuler 1939-2017
Julia Davis Park Centennial Board

Marilyn Shuler
In memory of John Shuler, who in 1961 brought me as a bride to Boise, a city that we both grew to love and call home

Travelers driving east used to emerge from downtown Boise and head up the hill toward the Union Pacific Depot before turning off toward Mountain Home on Old Highway 30 (Federal Way). Their last impressive memory of Boise was of the glowing, white, Spanish-style depot with its tall bell tower and red tile roof.

The depot and the stylish boulevard linking it to Idaho’s Statehouse had been built through the combined efforts of the Union Pacific Railroad, the Boise Chamber of Commerce, and the citizens of Boise. The railroad hired Carrere and Hastings of New York to design both. The Chamber raised funds for the right-of-way, and the citizens voted for the bond to finance the southern end of Capitol Boulevard.

On April 16, 1925, the depot went into business when the first transcontinental steam engine powered into the station. In exuberant celebration, thousands of people greeted the train. This inaugurated the main line; it was not a “stub” line from Nampa anymore. The local economy at last was weighty enough to justify the railroad’s extra expense for engineering a route into the Boise Valley from the higher elevations of the desert to the south.

Depot enhancements followed: the Platt Gardens in 1927, and clock-tower chimes and bells. Notable train arrivals included a “Spud Special” on tour in 1940 to advertise Idaho potatoes. The Merci Train in 1949 delivered a replica of Winged Victory, a gift from French people grateful to Americans for the food, fuel and medicine they sent after World War II.

Rail patronage declined during the 1960s, including U.S. Post Office mail freight. The last Portland Rose train left the depot in 1971, ending passenger service until Amtrak, which operated from 1977 to 1997.

In 1990, Morrison Knudsen Corporation bought the depot from UP, restored it and sold it to Boise City in 1996. Since then, the city has operated the building as a special-event venue for public use.

Read more about the Boise Depot.

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