In the late morning air, the steel tracks groan slightly beneath the train's whistle. Passengers fidget eagerly as they wait for the train to come to rest at the Boise Train Depot. It's mid-1920s, and soon the engine comes to a complete stop, letting those who will go on to other places stretch their legs for a bit. And for the lucky few for whom Boise is the final destination of their trip, their feet will step onto solid ground and onto one of the most important pieces of Boise Bench real estate, the grounds of the depot.
The depot, opened in 1925, served as a beacon for Boise-bound travelers. Its red tile roof greeting visitors to the City of Trees, and its observation tower reaching high into the Boise sky, invited visitors to come and enjoy the view of the city below. At that time, a climb to the top would have rewarded the viewer with a look at Boise in its infancy. At less than five years old, the recently constructed Idaho State Capitol Building would shimmer in the morning sun. Students at Boise Junior College would scurry to class paying little mind to the train above nor the people disembarking from its steps and into waiting cars, where the morning's travelers headed off to nearby Boise Bench homes and businesses.
Today, passenger trains no longer make stops at the Boise Train Depot, but this piece of Boise Bench real estate still counts among the most popular destinations in the city. In the spring, high school seniors pose for their senior photos on the grounds of the depot, wedding parties congregate, and fans of the beautiful view below and of the koi ponds filled with spunky fish, stare in appreciation at the beauty surrounding them. While the depot may not be the center of town, it's the spiritual heart of the Boise Bench and the jumping off point for some of the most attractive destinations on the hill.
An immediate turn out of the depot puts travelers onto Crescent Rim. From this vantage point, it's possible to look at Ann Morrison Park below, and on early summer mornings, sightings of joggers, frisbee throwers and even a few hot air balloons dot the landscape. Separating passersby from the hill leading to the park are some of the most stunning homes for sale in all of Boise, and while it's unusual to see Boise Bench homes for sale in the neighborhood by the depot, occasionally some do go up on the market and during that time, people can fantasize about how it would be to live in a home with a view as beautiful as the ones on Crescent Rim.
But in lieu of that, a car trip along the road's gently winding curves afford a genteel afternoon sojourn into Boise past as the older style of architecture floats by the eyes on the way to Morris Hill Cemetery and its popular neighbor, the Morris Hill Park.
While the cemetery has existed in Boise since the late 1800s, Morris Hill Park has only been around since 2007. Compared to its counterpart down the hill, Ann Morrison, this park is on the small scale. It measures just under eight acres, but within these acres may just be a dog's version of heaven. While the park at large possesses the basic amenities that make anyone walking on two feet happy--picnic shelter, benches, a horseshoe pit, and an arboretum--the dog park is everything man's four-legged best friend could hope for.
One acre of the Morris Hill Park is fenced off to create the Morris Hill dog park and dogs within these boundaries are free to romp without leashes. Provided by the Humane Society, fido's park comes complete with fire hydrants and dog toys as well as doggie mitt dispensers and trash cans so that dog owners can quickly pick up after their pets. With the park's centralized location it's easily reached by car and offers a significant contribution to people who wish to make a healthy lifestyle possible for both them and their pets at a location that's not so far removed from their work and home life. In fact, it's the park's close proximity to some pretty important Boise Bench businesses that make it an ideal place to spend a lunch hour away from the office.
One such business that might see workers heading out for a lunch time break also takes up one of the most significant chunks of Boise Bench real estate in this area. St. Alphonsus Hospital sits on the edge of the freeway off-ramp and just about a mile and a half from the dog park. This medical facility employers almost 1,000 medical staff, which serves nearly three-quarters of a million people in Idaho and Oregon. It's also a trauma center in the region, providing lifesaving care to the critically injured, regardless of what time of day they come through the door.
But aside from saving lives in an emergency, people living in the Boise Bench and beyond have come to rely on the medical center as a place where they can go to educate themselves about eating healthier, exercise and smoking cessation. This aspect of St. Al's work focuses on prevention, and the hospital provides health and wellness related classes and events that people living in the area can take advantage of simply by signing up.
Despite being near the freeway, the Boise Bench real estate that the hospital sits on feels more park-like with its tree-lined campus, and because of its location, people visiting the hospital can quickly jump back onto the freeway or head toward major roads like Franklin and Overland, which intersect parts of the Bench.
These roads take people to work each day, but they also play a vital role in connecting people with after work downtime and recreation. The Edward's 21 Movie-Plex lies just a couple of miles from the hospital as do restaurants, coffee shops and one of the most interesting amenities on the Bench, the Hillcrest Country Club.
Like the train depot, the country club got its start in the 1920s as the Idaho Country Club. As such, the country club sits under a canopy of mature trees that fill its front drive area as well as the golf course below. Today, many people still consider it one of the best golf courses in the Northwest, but it's more than that, too. The Hillcrest Country Club offers members a place to go and unwind after work, to work out, to swim and to dine on food created by a world-class chef. It's a place where health-minded individuals can participate in lifetime sports and to network and provides the area with a solid tradition in the ever-evolving landscape of Boise in the 21st century.