Property Type: Residential
Neighborhood: Warm Springs/East End  |  County: Ada  |  Building Status: Public  |  Architectural Style: Various
Have updates for this building? Contact Us!

Before this report truly commences, the reader must be aware that the history of this piece of architecture is assumed; the small amount of information discovered only hints that it applies to this structure, and was never able to be 100% confirmed. On the Oregon Trail, located on the rim of the basalt cliffs separating Surprise Valley and Columbia Village, are two small structures. One is of a large, rectangular shape, while the other is much smaller, and house-shaped. Architecturally, these structures would not fall under any specific style other than perhaps “bare land” (according to the Ada County Assessor website). When viewed very closely, it is found that the structures are composed entirely of lava/basalt rock and cement, with the larger structure’s floor also cement. Neither building has any windows or intact doors, although the smaller’s door frame was slightly undamaged, with modern gold hinges. A huge hint that there once was in fact a roof above both structures is the appearance of rusted bolts and nails sticking out of the top of the walls. Old wood piles are also close by. Lastly, there’s a lot of shrubbery, such as sagebrush and tumbleweeds, all over both structures, even blocking the entrance of the larger building. Because both structures were built without windows or concern for the comfort of whatever would be inside of them, it is assumed that they were constructed for storage purposes of the numerous homesteaders in the area. The larger building was sensibly used for larger objects, like materials for building houses and large supplies of food, while the smaller could have been an ice house. The Oregon Trail Rock Structures were built out of the rock found around it for several reasons. As mentioned above, the buildings are located at the base of the basalt cliffs separating Surprise Valley and Columbia Village. So, naturally, there was a plentiful supply of the rocks. The homesteaders were not among the wealthiest of Idaho’s settlers, and would very commonly use materials they found in nature. As it is well known, Southeast Boise is famous for the Oregon Trail running through it along the Boise River. Land in the area around the Oregon Trail subdivision and Surprise Valley tended to be homesteaded after the New York Canal was completed, due to the lack of water making the area seem less than desirable for farming. In 1915, records show that a farmer named Jesse D. Randall patented the land on which the two structures are found today. However, there is no confirmation that Randall actually built the two constructions, but by the conditions of the walls and cement, it is assumed that they were built during that time, between 1915 and 1920. Near this time period, Idaho was rapidly changing into the state it would become today. Recognized as the 43rd state on July 3, 1890, it soon began growing, possessing a population of over 431,800 people around the time of the homesteading in South East Boise. Some significant events during this period were the first steps in developing the television by Philo Farnsworth, and the building of Idaho’s State Capitol Building. As time went on, the two Oregon Trail Rock Structures stayed, and Boise grew around it. The Surprise Valley of today did not begin to be built until the early 1990s, and until the development of the Oregon Trail subdivision, would not come near the two structures. Today, the rock buildings sit merely 15 yards away from a residential area off S. Oregon Trail Way. Currently, the Oregon Trail Rock Structures are officially owned by the Oregon Trail Reserve and Boise Parks and Recreation, and it sadly seems as though that particular organization is the only one which holds the knowledge that the structures even exist. As Surprise Valley grows due to the increasing population of Boise each year, there is a great possibility that these nearly 100-year-old structures may be overrun by new subdivisions scheduled to be created. The area which the buildings stand on is technically blocked off from the public, and so recognition of its presence is even more limited. No signs mark their place on the Oregon Trail; no Oregon Trail restoration organizations ever mention them on their numerous websites, and professionals on the history of Idaho, the Boise area especially, have never heard of them. Yet, the Oregon Trail Rock Structures still stand there today as a symbol of what once was, of the true foundations of Southeast Boise. These possible storage houses were very significant in establishing the capital of Idaho State. Without them, and many like them, Boise itself could possibly not be the city it is today.
Information provided by Barbara Bauer