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Caldwell City

Caldwell City Hall is located at 411 Blaine Street, Caldwell, ID 83606; phone: 208-455-3000.

Beginnings [1]

In the 1860's, the discovery of gold in Idaho's central and southwest mountains brought a variety of new settlers into the area. Some traveled along the same trails that took them to the Oregon Territory, while others formed new routes from Latin American and Asian countries. Many never made it to the mines but chose to settle along the Boise River and run ferries, stage stations, and freighting businesses. These early entrepreneurs, along with some frustrated goldseekers from the Boise Basin mines, eventually started small ranches and farms in the river valleys.

Caldwell's inception occurred largely as a result of the construction of the Oregon Short Line Railroad. Robert E. Strahorn came to the Boise River Valley in 1883 to select the route for the railroad. He rejected the grade into Boise City as too steep and chose a site thirty miles to the west. He drove his stake into an alkali flat of sagebrush and greasewood and the City of Caldwell was born. The town was named after one of Strahorn's business partners, Alexander Caldwell of Kansas.

The original townsite was platted in August of 1883 by the Idaho and Oregon Land Improvement Company, which was interested in persuading settlers and businessmen to move to the area. Within four months, Caldwell had 600 residents, 150 buildings, 40 business operations, one school on Chicago Street, a telephone exchange and two weekly newspapers (The Caldwell Tribune and Caldwell Record). Two months later there were several churches (Baptist, First Presbyterian, Christian and Methodist) and the College of Idaho was founded in Caldwell in 1891.

Settlement of the Caldwell area began as a result of migration along the Oregon Trail in the mid-19th century and the city center originated as a railroad camp for the construction of the Oregon Short Line Railroad. On January 15, 1890 the Board of Commissioners of Ada County issued a handwritten order incorporating the Town of Caldwell, an area six miles square. Upon proclamation by the Governor in 1892, Canyon County was established from a portion of Ada County and other land to the west. Caldwell was subsequently named the county seat. Caldwell experienced moderate growth as an agricultural trading and educational center through the twentieth century.

Construction of irrigation canals and waterways provided the foundation for an agricultural based economy and, along with Caldwell's banking and financial institutions, were responsible for the early growth of the City. The first irrigation canals were built by the Idaho and Oregon Land Improvement Company and the Boise Valley Canal Company. The first bank, the Stock growers and Traders Bank, was organized in 1887 and is, at present, part of the Wells Fargo Bank system. After the turn of the century, numerous substantial business buildings, public structures and private homes were constructed in Caldwell. The Oregon Short Line Railroad became part of the larger Union Pacific Railroad network and in 1906 the Caldwell freight and passenger depot was constructed.

  1. City of Caldwell, Planning & Zoning department, City of Caldwell 2030 Comprehensive Plan, adopted May 17,2010,, accessed March, 2011.
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