Life June 14, 2019

Neighborhoods: The Highlands

Boiseans know that Bogus Basin Road is the gateway that takes skiers and boarders, cyclists, and summer recreation enthusiasts all the way up the mountain to the Bogus Basin Ski Recreation Area 19 miles away. But many people don’t think much about the small, well-tended mid-century neighborhood area that they must pass through on their way out of town.

The Highlands neighborhood spreads primarily east of Bogus Basin Road into lush curvy side streets bearing street names that pay homage to Scotland, the original home of The Highlands: Wyndemere, Braemere, Hearthstone, Keldoon, Argyll, Afton, Pashcal, Selkirk, Heather and Tartan. 

Back in the 1800s, the arid area had a small smattering of farms, but in 1888 Boise pioneer schoolteacher and farmer Franklin B. Smith patented 160 acres of the land, which, 67 years later, would be developed into The Highlands by Franklin’s grandson Richard B. Smith.

Before it became The Highlands, the area was known as the more colorful Slaughterhouse Gulch, as its primary commercial feature at the time was the Idaho Provision and Packing Company’s meatpacking house. Richard B. Smith’s daughter, Boisean Shelley Eichmann, recalls her conversation many years ago with a woman who had lived all her life on 15th Street, south of Slaughterhouse Gulch, who told her that when the spring rains came there would be red water flowing into her basement down from the meat packing operations.

In 1955, Smith and his co-developers Fred Bagley, Ted Eberle, and Robert Kinsinger, launched The Highlands project on land Smith’s grandfather, Franklin, had patented more than 60 years earlier. The name of the area was changed from Slaughterhouse Gulch to The Highlands, and in a further tip of the hat toward the Scottish spirit, Smith had his real estate salesmen wear Royal Stewart plaid tartan jackets at work, according to Eichmann.

Smith also employed a new marketing scheme to promote new neighborhoods, called The Parade of Homes, which still continues throughout the Treasure Valley today. Marketed as a family activity, the Parade of Homes provided pony rides and clowns for the children while their parents viewed the new houses.

As an additional incentive for potential homebuyers, Smith facilitated the development of the Crane Creek Country Club by selling the land to the club for $1.
Additional country club land was gained in a land swap with J.R. Simplot, through which the late potato tycoon acquired the parcel on which he built his hilltop house. The Simplot mansion was demolished in 2016, but its immense 30-by-50-foot American flag that waved 200 feet above it still stands as one of the most prominent landmarks in The Highlands area and is visible for miles.

In the 1960s, The Highlands neighborhood became known for its colorful Christmas light display as Highlands homeowners joined together to festoon their houses in holiday decorations, drawing visitors and traffic from all areas of Boise. The neighborhood also gained national recognition for building the country’s first prototype bomb shelter in 1961. According to Eichmann, Highland homeowners each contributed $100 toward the shelter’s construction with the rest coming from the Federal Civil Defense Agency.

With its classic midcentury architecture, the Highlands neighborhood is still a sought after location for homebuyers. Many homes are more than 60 years old, and although it’s not designated as a historic district, The Highlands neighborhood holds an important place in Boise’s history.

Today, both residents of The Highlands and neighboring Boiseans enjoy the many businesses, restaurants and services located near the neighborhood’s entryway at the convergence of Bogus Basin, Harrison, and Hill roads. These include sporting stores such as McCu Sports, Alpenglow Mountainsport, and Greenwood’s Ski Haus; food, drinks and more at Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, O’Michaels Pub and Grill, Hawkins Pac-Out, and Lulu’s Pizza; services such as Healthwise, Bogus Basin Ticket Office, Car Tub Car Wash; and many others. Camel’s Back Park and Hyde Park are a short walk or bike ride away; the lovely Hull’s Gulch Reserve is right over the hill, and downtown Boise is about a 15 minute jaunt by bike or car.

And finally, what’s not to love about a place close enough to be up skiing at the Bogus Basin Ski Recreation Area within about 30 minutes, and then be back to the neighborhood in time to play a round of golf in the afternoon. 

This article appears in the Summer 2019 Issue of Territory Magazine.