Remember When Boise Had a Roller Coaster on Warm Springs Avenue?
While we're spending all this extra time at home, can somebody perfect a time machine so we can go back to this golden age in Boise history?
Many of you know that my lottery dream is to build my own backyard roller coaster. That dream is partially inspired by one of Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley Kid's books I read as a kid. In the book, the Wakefield twins receive a roller coaster from their new friend whose family lives inside the amusement park they visited. The dream's also partially inspired by the fact that I grew up within driving distance of three major amusement parks including the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point. Roller coasters are one of the only things I've missed since moving to Boise.
That's why I fell down the rabbit hole researching the history of amusement parks in Idaho. Turns out, throughout history Boise's been home to at least two roller coasters. Many of you remember the "Mad Mouse" style roller coaster that used to be part of the small, now-defunct amusement park in Julia Davis Park that went by the name "Boise Fun Spot." The Fun Spot stopped operating sometime in the late 90s.
The other coaster? Well, that one made its debut many, many years ago next to the Natatorium on Warm Springs Avenue. Completed in the 1890s, the original Natatorium was quite different than the public pool and hydro tube we're familiar with today. According to Greenbelt Magazine, the original Nat was flanked by six-story towers that made it look a bit like a Spanish palace. It included four floors of galleries and 65' x 125' in-ground pool which, at the time, was the second-largest indoor pool in the United States. In addition to swimming, it was also a hub for dancing, billiards, playing card games, dining and socializing at one of the Nat's Turkish baths, hot tubs, steam tubs or bar.
A little over a decade later, the White City Park opened next door. According to a historical document on Boise's East End Neighborhood Association's website the White City was actually Boise's first public park and included a joy wheel, fun factory, pavilion, skating ring, miniature railway, ostrich farm...and yes, a roller coaster!
Unfortunately, the original Nat building was severely damaged in a windstorm in 1934, was condemned and torn down. The original pool remained and eventually reopened as the outdoor Natatorium we know today. White City Park survived a few more years but was torn down in 1940.
We may have missed that extremely cool period in Boise History, but thanks to Gordon Roberts, a member of the Idaho Virtual Reality Council, we have a unique opportunity to see what it was like back then! He spent over 400 hours creating a Virtual Reality tour of what the Natatorium and White City properties looked like at the turn of the century. He worked off photographs from the Idaho State Archives and old stories/advertisements Idaho Statesman and put together a 20-minute virtual reality tour that you can watch HERE.
A ride on the roller coaster was one of the preview clips he shared while working on the project!