Boise was established, initially, as a military post and outfitting station for the miners going into the Boise Basin and the Silver City mines. Almost immediately, however, it was evident that the city was a pleasant and well-located entity in its own right, had abundant natural resources and was located on an historic transportation route (The Oregon Trail), which would soon be the general route for a developed road and railroad.
The city immediately prospered as a commercial and wholesale center and, with the advent of a rail connection to the main line in 1894 with tracks along Front Street there was immediate development of large-scale warehousing. Two of the additions to the platted city – Miller Addition in 1889 and the Davis Addition in 1890 – anticipated and provided for rail spurs off the frontage tracks. The South 8th Street Historic District is located in these two early-day industrial/warehouse subdivisions – the first such land developments in the city.
The impressive size and scale of the principal buildings in the district attest to the immediate success of the wholesaling and certain limited industrial enterprises, which located there. The provision of the rail spur track in the planned rail right-of-way along the alley lines in the blocks between 7th and 9th Streets were the key to this development – as well as the proximity of the area to the business center of downtown.
These wholesaling and industrial occupancies (and the buildings that housed them) remained viable until approximately 1950, when a gradual decline began due to the competition of truck transportation. Only a small number of warehouses had adequate space for truck docking, and few of the original occupancies remain.
Imaginative developers have invested in the principal buildings and have undertaken large-scale redevelopment preserving the historic theme of the 1900-1915 architectural styles of the buildings. It may be argued that some of the buildings have been “prettified” beyond recognition. Nevertheless, the scale, color, and impact of Boise’s first major industrial and wholesaling district is being continued and is enjoying a new life of adaptive reuse along with the continuation of some of the original uses.