BOISE, Idaho — A monument to the Army officer who selected the site for Fort Boise in 1863 stood for 84 years near his campsite on the Boise River. The Boise Metro Rotary Club wanted to make it the centerpiece of a new pocket park on the Greenbelt.
But city leaders and club members decided its sentiment — marking that arrival as “the beginning of civilization in the Boise Valley” — is no longer appropriate.
The monument to Col. Pinkney Lugenbeel had been removed for restoration. Now it will remain in storage indefinitely, said Doug Holloway, director of Boise Parks and Recreation. He made the call after consulting with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and city historians.
Lugenbeel’s arrival “wasn’t the beginning of civilization here,” Holloway said. “We’re careful of what can and cannot go into a city park.”
That has left the Rotary Club looking for a new monument for its planned Rotary Park between the Interstate 184 Connector and the 1923 trestle bridge that is now part of a Greenbelt cutoff leading to Orchard Street.
The Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers installed the Lugenbeel and other monuments in the 1930s. Among them is a monument on the grounds of the Veterans Administration, the old Fort Boise site, installed in “memory of soldiers and Indian fighters who served to make the frontier safe for Idaho pioneers.”
The group also installed a monument in Julia Davis Park not far from the Boise Art Museum. Its plaque reads: “In memory of Wilson Price Hunt Expedition. First whites to visit Boise Valley. 1811.”
The language of those monuments reflects the sensibilities of their era, a certain frontier mentality and the perception that indigenous civilization was not true civilization. Perceptions have since evolved.
“You can’t erase history. That doesn’t mean you have to celebrate it.” said Holloway. “We don’t want to exclude anyone.”
Standards also have changed for religious monuments. A Ten Commandments Monument, donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, was installed in Julia Davis Park in 1965. It stood for nearly four decades, mostly overlooked in a shady corner of the park. But in 2003, some began to question whether the religious monument belonged on city land. The monument was moved to the grounds of St. Michael’s Cathedral in 2006.
A higher profile
Rotary members are discussing a possible monument replacement with the Pioneer Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
The DAR is a national group of women descended from those who fought for independence in the Revolutionary War. The DAR also installed stone monuments around the community in the 1930s.
One, also shaped like Idaho, still stands near the Boise Inn on Fairview Avenue. Its inscription notes that Government Island, a former island in the Boise River, was a camp site for pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The monument has no objectionable phrasing. But it is easy to miss: Its inscription faces away from the road.
As a city grows and changes, the placement of monuments can become out of date, said Janice Beller, chapter regent of the Pioneer Chapter.
“The opportunity to move it closer to the river,” to a place of prominence in the new park, “is very appealing,” she said.
Club members will vote on the move soon.
New pocket park
The Boise Metro Rotary Club has been working on the park project since 2014.
The city had received a federal grant to complete the last stretch of Greenbelt within city limits, between Joe’s Crab Shack and Ann Morrison Park. The grant did not include money for a seating area. Rotary committed to raising money for the small park on the riverbank.
The club worked with the Boise Centennial and Eagle/Garden Rotary Clubs to raise $55,000, enough to pay for the new park and moving the DAR monument if the club members agree.
Construction of the park will begin next spring. The park will include benches, a bike repair stand, a Little Free Library filled with books, and, Beller and Rotary members hope, an Idaho-shaped monument.