The Central Bench has always been a desirable place for Boiseans to make their homes. Overlooking the Boise River and downtown, homes on the Bench have commanded sweeping views since the earliest days of Boise. In fact, some of the most prestigious homes in the city claim prime spots along the edge of the rim perched high above all the action.
Its most famous landmark, the Boise Depot (2603 W. Eastover Terrace), has stood sentinel since 1925 and was once the gateway to the City of Trees. Though the trains are long gone, the depot is still a hub of the community, available for rental to brides with big budgets, as well as for special events.
Today the Bench is a neighborhood with a mix of 1950s bungalows and more modern dwellings along quiet residential streets punctuated by commercial corridors and retail hubs. In recent years, the Bench has become the place to go to find an ever-expanding variety of ethnic markets and restaurants.
The Bench is also home to the oldest synagogue west of the Mississippi, Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel Synagogue (11 N. Latah St.), in use since 1896. The building wasn't actually constructed on the Bench but was moved there in 2003 from its original location on the corner of 11th and State streets in downtown Boise.
Offering yet more history, the Morris Hill Cemetery is one of the oldest in the city and the final resting place for numerous famous Idahoans including Sen. Frank Church, Gov. Moses Alexander (the first Jewish governor in the country), potato magnate J.R. Simplot and grocery store founder Joseph Albertson.
For a little culture on the Bench, check out local community theater groups Prairie Dog Playhouse (3820 Cassia St.) and the once nearly vacant Hillcrest Shopping Center, which is now home to both the Stage Coach Theatre (5296 W. Overland Road) and one of the popular branch public libraries, the Library at Hillcrest (5246 W. Overland Road).
Word to the wise: Bench residents are a proud lot, so don't dis the Bench.
It's been said the Bench was Boise's first suburb. These days it's definitely no suburb and it's definitely the new "it" neighborhood. Things to love: lower home prices and the fact that it's home to the best selection of ethnic markets and restaurants in town.