Maybe every metropolitan area has one, a neighborhood that is so unique it stands out with a certain vibe, a certain feel, a place within a place. In Dallas, I think of McKinney Avenue. Uptown. Trolley cars. There’s a certain feel there. In Austin it’s maybe so many neighborhoods, maybe Hyde Park, the North Loop, and Kerbey Lane… on account of the cafe & all. San Fran, of course there’s Haight-Ashbury & The Castro… so many hoods in San Fran qualify. In Boise, we have the North End.
The homes are mostly turn of the century eclectic, the streets old school-gridded, numbered so you don’t get lost. I have a distinct first impression of the North End circa 1992-ish, using my Chevy 2-door blazer to tow my college car, RX-7, the cheap man’s sports car of the day… and coming all the way from Mountain Home (50-ish miles)… and all the intersections had NO Stop Signs!!! You had to know to yield right!! Of course all the locals know this. I had a scare & gave someone a scare before making it out alive. The city planners have rectified this with strategically placed intersection stop signs while maintaining some thoroughfares.
I like to joke that Idaho, red state that it is, has taken all the state’s liberals & sequestered them in the North End. Krakow or Prague ghetto much? Okay that’s not a fair nor in good taste comparison. In Boise we let our liberals come & go freely as long as they are going to the polls to vote for more moderate centrist Republican political candidates ;0)
At the Center of the North End is Hyde Park on 13th Street, with a funky mix of bars, bike shops, coffee houses, ice cream, cafe restaurants, and an old gas station with an historic pump. It’s inviting to while away the day in summer or winter… hell might as well throw in Spring & Fall while we are at it. Take a stroll North & you are at Camelsback Park… where a massive hill leads to one of the best overlooks of downtown Boise, the Capital & the train depot. The Park hosts the annual Hyde Street Fair where you can see some bands & some genuine Idaho granola hippies mix it up with mountain hipsters, families, & the common Joe & Jane’s.
You are just as likely to see a multi-million dollar Victorian next to a renovated live-in cathedral next to some funky multi-unit rental where those with means bump up against those with much lesser means. And the distinct lack of any pretension is what makes this menagerie work. It’s something Boiseans are proud of. It’s like Southern hospitality minus any bless your little hearts & big hair & BMW’s.
Come to Boise. See what a good thing the North End is. Stay a day, a weekend, a year… maybe even the rest of your life.