History of Eagle, Idaho

Eagle, Idaho is one of the fastest-growing and desirable communities in the Treasure Valley. Its reputation for being a quiet suburb filled with beautiful, new houses while also having a small-town feeling downtown adds to the charm. But how did a one-horse town of 350 on the Boise River grow into the bustling suburb that saw over 200% growth from 1990 to 2000? Where did Eagle come from? Read on to find out!

When gold was discovered in the Boise Basin and the mountains north of the valley, people flocked to the area to make their fortunes. While many sought gold in the form of metal, one intrepid man had other ideas. Truman C. Catlin, an Illinois native, saw that the prospectors and townsfolk needed food. He invested in 160 acres of land along the Boise River in late 1863. The site was named Eagle Island after the large number of bald eagles on the river near the property. The following year, Catlin and his neighbor dug irrigation trenches to get water to the farmland. The result was enough water to irrigate 700 acres and kicked off a 40-year effort by valley residents to dig canals and ditches to irrigate most of the valley. Many of these are still around to this day.

In 1877, a man named Thomas Hugh Aikens bought land on the north and south sides of the Boise River. The property on the north side made him the owner of a large portion of Valley Road between Eagle and Boise (now State Street/Highway 44). Valley Road was, at the time, the main road between Boise and the towns to the west. Aikens then began a long campaign to build a bridge over the Boise River to connect his properties on the north and south sides of the river. The main opponent to the bridge was the town of Star, which didn't see the need for a tiny town like Eagle to build a bridge over the river. The county commission decided to let the voters decide

Aikens devised a genius strategy to get people to vote for the bridge. He rented a luxury carriage to transport people to the polls and offered voters a free picnic. The voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bridge. The Eagle Island Bridge construction led to the building of a new school, a grocery store, and an Odd Fellows Hall. In 1904, Aikens and retired teamster John Carpenter decided to plat and sell fifteen acres to the town for development. Shortly after, the township was officially named Eagle.

The early 1900s were a time of huge growth for the town.

  • The Eagle Drug Store was established in 1906.
  • Eagle got its first official bank in 1910 at the corner of Valley Road and 1st Street. Thomas Aikens built a two-story, 16-room residence hotel across the street. Both of these buildings still stand today.
  • In 1913, the Boise Valley Packing Company introduced custom meat cutting. The resulting “Eagle Brand” label remained a viable source of income for the next 76 years.
  • Also in 1913, the Boise Valley Cooperative Creamery of Meridian opened a branch in Eagle.
  • In 1915, the Boise Valley Loop trolley line fully connected Eagle to the other towns in the valley.
  • In 1916, the drug store was moved to the commercial block, making it a popular stop for trolley line passengers. This made the drug store gain regional fame.
  • During the 1920s, Orville Jackson renovated and expanded the drug store. The building still retains his name and signage.
  • In March of 1930, the State of Idaho opened the Eagle Island Prison Farm, which allowed low-risk prisoners to work off their debt to society while also giving back to the community. The farm operated until the 1970s.
  • In 1937,  the Idaho Department of Fish and Game opened the Eagle Island Fish Hatchery next to the prison farm.

After World War II, the town started to become a popular suburban community as we know it.

  • In October 1970, a committee was formed to declare Eagle as an incorporated city.
  • On February 26, 1971, Eagle was approved to be a new city by the Ada County Commission.
  • The Eagle Public Library was founded in 1973. What started out as a volunteer effort now has a collection of over 98,000 volumes and circulates more than 310,000 items yearly.
  • From 1980 to 1990, the population of Eagle grew slightly from 2,620 to 3,327.
  • In 1982, the site of the Eagle Island Prison Farm became Eagle Island State Park, a popular recreation area for swimming, horseback riding, and walking.
  • Between 1990 and 2000, the population boomed to 11,085 (a 233.2% growth).
  • In October 2001, the Eagle Museum of History and Preservation was opened across the street from the Orville Jackson Drug Store. Admission is free and doors are open from 9 am to 6 pm.

Today, Eagle has a population of over 20,000 and is the destination for high-end custom homes. The large number of new subdivisions being built around the city is good news for growth. With many new homes for sale, the market is hot and many people are looking to buy or build new homes. If you are interested in buying a home in Eagle, Idaho, the time to buy is now!

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