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Idaho City

Idaho City is a city in and the county seat of Boise County, Idaho, United States, located about 36 miles northeast of Boise. The population was 485 at the 2010 census, up from 458 in 2000. It has an elevation  of 3,907 feet (1,191 m)above sea level.

A gateway to the Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho City is a hidden gem. Once the largest city in the Pacific Northwest during the gold rush, there now remains a rugged western town steeped in mining and logging history. See historic structures, walk on traditional wooden sidewalks, shop the antique stores and explore artifacts in the Boise Basin Museum. Top off the visit with a tasty ice cream cone or try a sarsaparilla at the local saloon before continuing to nearby hiking trails and campsites.

Idaho City is rich with history and is seen by some of the old, original buildings. In 1864 it was a nine hour stage coach ride from Idaho City to Boise City. The uphill trip coming back took an hour longer, and there were no guarantees at all after the snow fell.


History:  The first gold in the Boise Basin was discovered near Centerville on August 2, 1862. Soon settlements had sprung up all through the Boise Basin, in December of 1862 Bannock City was founded.

Bannock City was located in the most rugged, remote region of Washington Territory which was comprised of modern Washington, Idaho, and western Montana. In March of 1863 President Lincoln established Idaho Territory, and in 1864 Bannock City was renamed Idaho City. As many as 20,000 miners came to Idaho City, making it the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco. The first fire swept through the town on May 18, 1865 and destroyed 80% of the town in two hours. Idaho City was quickly rebuilt. Exactly two years and a day later fire struck again, but this time residents were ready and more buildings were saved. Some of those buildings still stand today.20160611_IDC2

Idaho City was founded in December 1862 as “Bannock” (sometimes given as “West Bannock”), amidst the Boise Basin gold rush during the Civil War, the largest since the California gold rush a dozen years earlier. Near the confluence of Elk and Mores Creeks, its plentiful water supply allowed it to outgrow the other nearby camps in the basin, such as Placerville, Pioneerville, and Centerville. As its population swelled, the new Idaho Terratorial legislature changed the town’s name to “Idaho City,” to avoid confusion with Bannack, in present-day Beaverhead County, the southwestern corner of Montana.

At its peak during the mid-1860s, there were more than 200 businesses in town, including three dozen saloons and two dozen law offices. Its 1864 population of 7,000 made it the largest city in the Northwest, bigger than Portland. Wood was the prime source of both shelter and heat, which caused Idaho City to burn four times: 1865, 1867, 1868, and 1871. Five businesses on Main Street burned again in the early hours of June 5, 2015.

During the boom, the greater Boise Basin population numbered in the tens of thousands, but most departed the mountains once mining declined. Idaho City’s population fell below 900 by 1870 and was down to 104 by 1920. The modern economy relies mainly on hunting and fishing tourism, and visits to the many historic sites, including the Boot Hill Cemetery. Outside of town, the mining tailings of the era are ubiquitous.

Four thousand Chinese lived in the Idaho Territory from 1869 to 1875. Like many Chinese immigrants, they came to “Gold Mountain” to work as miners, or found work as laundrymen and cooks. The store of Pon Yam, a prominent Chinese businessman Pon Yam House from 1867 is one of the only remaining buildings from Idaho City’s Chinese. Although today Chinese are rarely seen except as tourists, the 1870 census reported at 1,751 Chinese who were nearly half of city residents.





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