By Gary Flanagan
The subtle symbolism of Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor in a letter continues in Boise, Idaho. The address of the state Capitol of Idaho is 700 West Jefferson Street. This street runs directly in front of the Capitol. However, the street running East to West behind the Capitol is State Street. It is here you will find a garden of churches lined up, inspiring their patrons, steps short of its Capitol neighbor. Geographically in Boise, Idaho, State Street is the separation between church and state. Jefferson Street watches from a block away.
The city was named by early French settlers for its proximity to the boyce, or wooded river, and is pronounced Boy-see by long time inhabitants. Idaho became the 43rd state in 1890 and started construction on the current Capitol building in 1906 finishing in 1920. The architects were a Connecticut native and a German immigrant. They used 4 types of marble. Georgia Red, Vermont Green, Alaska Gray and Italy Black draw inspiration from St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome, St. Pauls Cathedral in London and The U.S. Capitol in Washington. Replicas of the Liberty Bell and Ten Commandments are found easily in a walk around the grounds.
As you finish touring the Capitol, walk across State street to the first intersection going west. Here you will find St. Michaels Episcopal Cathedral (StMichaelsCathedral.org). The St. Michaels community dates back 150 years to the first year of Boise development. Construction of the present-day church started in 1899 and finished just as the Capitol construction was beginning.The founders of the church also built the first hospital and schools in Boise.
Continuing west on State Street, you will reach a different church on each block. First Church of Christ Scientist is next, established in 1989. This is a branch of the First Church of Christ Science of Boston founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the late 1800s. Reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing is one of the missions described on their website, CSChurchBoise.org. The last church within site of the Capitol on state street is First Presbyterian Church (FPCBoise.org). This church was established in 1878.
Boise has been called the “City of Trees” dating back to the early days of discovery of the wooded river. Once established, it has seen a flow of materials, people and religion arriving from the east. Arriving downtown from the east you can trace the development of the community in a naturally flowing timeline. Starting with Jefferson and Washington streets, State street, the Capitol and a line of diverse church gardens, spreading to the west.
It all seems to be in a proper placement for the good of the community it serves. You may not want to leave because it feels very comfortable here. I, however, have to keep moving on. There is so much more to explore in the great wide west of our country. My next stop will be the capital city of Montana, almost 500 driving miles away.