Since 1896, the Almon and Mary Spaulding Ranch has stood near the north end of Cole Road, its historic farmstead surrounded by nearly 20 acres of irrigated pasture. This iconic place on the Boise Bench is now threatened with subdivision and development for tract housing.
Few driving by the last farmstead on Cole Road know its history (pdf, 9.3MB)—even fewer know that the farmstead and its pasturage are protected and why that protection is vulnerable. In the early 1990s, then-owner Katherine Caron faced the distinct possibility that her land would be seized by the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) through eminent domain and converted into a corridor connecting Glenwood Street and Cole Road. ACHD had determined that the last vestige of farmland in a neighborhood once comprised almost exclusively of farms should be sacrificed to the region’s transportation needs.
In an attempt to fight for her open space, Caron successfully listed the farmstead and its pasture in the National Register of Historic Places, and appealed to the City of Boise for designation as a locally zoned historic district. In 1996, one hundred years after the ranch was established, it became the seventh such district in the city. According to the city, the ranch is significant for “its association with the early settlement and development of Boise. As the last full visual testament to the early history of Boise's West Bench, it provides a reminder of the area's agricultural legacy. What was once all rural, farmland has long been consumed by Boise's creeping urban development, but the Spaulding Ranch continues to stand as a record of our past.”
When Caron and her family sold the property it was purchased by a developer intent on replacing open space with housing. Though Northside Management has proposed to leave 5 acres of the site (including the farmstead) intact, 15 acres or 75 percent of the parcel would become housing. Now Northside Management must convince the Boise Historic Preservation Commission and the Boise City Council that the subdivision and development of this historic district is in the best interest of the city and the site itself.
Preservation Idaho believes that the site should be preserved intact, but we need the public’s help to convince the developer and the City of Boise. We are hosting a public meeting for you to learn the facts of Spaulding Ranch—its history, how it is protected, why it is threatened, and what action you can take to see it preserved.
Update - January 2013
As 2013 begins, Preservation Idaho anticipates many opportunities for you to voice your interest in the long-term preservation and use of Cole Road’s Spaulding Ranch. The first of those opportunities is when the West Bench Neighborhood Association (WBNA) meets to decide its role in the proposed development. At their meeting on January 16th at 7:00 PM at the Cole and Ustick Branch of the Boise Public Library, the WBNA will determine whether they intend to support or oppose the development proposal of Northside Management.
Preservation Idaho hosted a public meeting on December 13th in which we voiced our perspective on the proposed development and our intention to work through the process to see the historic district remain intact. Over 100 attendees filled the venue to capacity, marking a distinct interest by the public in this issue.
As this process continues, we will keep you up to date on the issue and how you can be involved, but we cannot protect Spaulding Ranch without your help. Your membership in the organization enables us to respond to advocacy issues such as these and funds the vital work we do both in Boise and around the state. Please consider joining us today – http://www.preservationidaho.org/support-us.
Update - May 2013
At their meeting on January 16th, members of the West Bench Neighborhood Association (WBNA) voted to oppose the development proposal of Northside Management. Since that vote, no further formal action on the issue has taken place. Northside Management, which originally brought forward a proposal to redevelop Spaulding Ranch in November of 2012, has made no formal application to the City of Boise. Without an application and its approval, the development cannot proceed. Preservation Idaho is optimistic that this unexpected delay is a positive sign for the long-term preservation of both the farmstead and its surrounding acreage, but we remain vigilant and will notify our members and the public should the situation change.
Update - February 2014
Once again rumblings have surfaced that development plans are in the works for the historic Spaulding Ranch property on Cole Road in Boise. The developer, Scott Noriyuki of Northside Management, held a neighborhood meeting on January 15, to which he invited adjacent property owners. Approximately 50 people were in attendance, including Preservation Idaho, some members of the West Bench Neighborhood Association, and other interested community groups. Mr. Noriyuki stated that the meeting was called in order to answer questions from neighbors who would be most impacted by the development before holding meetings open to the general public. Mr. Noriyuki presented a new development plan that takes into account the fact that the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) would require extension of the Glenwood Street spur if the proposal is approved. The new plan calls for retaining 5 acres of open space surrounding the historic ranch buildings, with the rest of the 20 acre property being carved out into 74 detached home lots and 8 duplexes. Homes along the newly extended Glenwood Street would be rear-loading, accessed only from alley driveways. The rest of the lots would be conventional suburban-style front-access lots. Some neighborhood open spaces are included in the plan and the developer stated that one of those spaces would house an interpretive sign discussing the history of the ranch. The plan still calls for North-End style architecture, even though with the exception of the farmstead, all of the surrounding neighborhoods are made up of ranch-style modern homes. Mr. Noriyuki stated that no applications for development have been filed with the city yet, as they are still trying to determine the project's feasibility. Many hurdles remain before any development plans can proceed. The largest, and most important obstacle to overcome, is convincing the Boise Historic Preservation Commission and perhaps the Boise City Council to remove all or part of the current Historic District designation from the property. Mr. Noriyuki stated that he plans to hold additional meetings in the coming weeks to discuss the proposed development with the wider public. Preservation Idaho, along with other non-profits and the government agencies involved, have been invited to speak at the next meeting. Mr. Noriyuki stated this meeting would occur within the next 2 - 2 1/2 weeks. We will let you know as soon as we obtain further information. We hope you will be able to attend any future meetings to show your support for retaining the historic designation of this unique West Bench property.
Update - October 2015
Since November of 2012, the landmark Spaulding Ranch on Boise’s West Bench has been a site of concern to Preservation Idaho. Threatened with subdivision and tract housing development despite its status as a Boise City Historic District and its listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the 20 acre property has recently won an unexpected reprieve.
In October of 2015, the Boise City Council approved a process to study and consider a land transfer in which the Spaulding Ranch would be given to the City of Boise in exchange for 6.5 acres of land near the Boise River at the western edge of downtown. Although the investigation into the feasibility of this exchange will not be completed for a month, Preservation Idaho is optimistic that it will prove the viability of such a transaction and further the City of Boise’s stated goal of becoming the most livable city in the nation.
No firm plans for the Spaulding Ranch have been announced, but the city has retained Trout Architects to study the buildings which compose the farmstead. Trout, which has a wealth of experience working with historic structures, will undertake a structural assessment of the buildings and study the costs and feasibility of their potential stabilization, renovation, and use. Dependent on public engagement, the city might manage the 15 acres of pasture surrounding the farmstead as community open space with pathways, gardens, and interpretive signage.
The board of Preservation Idaho has wholeheartedly endorsed the City's acquisition of the Spaulding Ranch. We have also assured the city of our continued interest helping to plan the long-term maintenance, preservation, and use of the property. We stand ready to assist the City in these efforts in whatever way we are able and we encourage the public to share their support of the plan to City Council. It's important for city and state government to know what matters to Idahoans.
For additional information, contact us at 208-424-5111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.