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Annual Manual 2014

Athens of the Sage-brush


Almost 110 years ago, legendary Chicago attorney Clarence Darrow came to Boise in defense of union leader William "Big Bill" Haywood, who was accused of acting as ringleader in the assassination of Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg. The judgment of the conspirators, in 1907, was billed by newspapers around the country as "the trial of the century"—that was obviously premature, but the case did bring international attention to the then-small city.

Billeted in the Idanha Hotel, along with accused assassin Harry Orchard and co-prosecutor William Borah, Darrow liked what he found in Boise.

"As we neared Boise the scene changed," he later wrote in his autobiography. "The fields were fresh and green, the orchards were luxuriant, the town was resplendent with lawns and flowers, shrubs and trees; the houses were neat and up-to-date. The Snake River had been intersected with dikes, which irrigated the barren wilderness and made it a beautiful garden-spot. The landscape was most pleasing, and out beyond, a circle of mountains enclosed the little city; so that after the long, wearisome journey Boise seemed like a bright green gem in a setting of blue."

Darrow's praise went beyond the landscape.

"Boise had a pride in its town and people and culture, and could rightly be called the Athens of the sage-brush," he added.

In the century since Darrow visited, Boise and its surrounding communities have spread across the Treasure Valley, sprouting fields and orchards; pushing out tendrils of irrigation, roads and power lines; growing up and planting deep to establish and earn the title he affixed to it.

Every week, Boise Weekly chronicles the highs and lows of the story of this city and its region; but, once a year, with our Annual Manual, we have the chance to stand back and provide a higher-level view of the place we call home. This year, you'll find articles exploring community leaders, politics, transportation, education, outdoor recreation—what really makes the Treasure Valley tick—and why for both natives and newcomers, this place holds a powerful attraction.