Long before an automobile rolled into town, the Lewiston Teller was asking, “Why not bond the city and pave the streets?” in an 1891 editorial complaining about uneven grading and indiscriminate dumping of dirt on city streets. The city seems to have gotten around to its first major paving project in 1900.
In Boise, the city council decided to pave some streets in 1897. Their first bold vision included asphalt on “Front from Twelfth to Tenth, Tenth from Front to Idaho, Idaho from Tenth to Seventh, Main from Tenth to Fifth, Ninth from Grove to Bannock, Eighth from Grove to Jefferson, Seventh from Grove to Idaho, Jefferson from Grove to Sixth, the alley between Main and Grove from Tenth to Seventh.”
When the project began, though, they had whittled it down to paving five blocks on Main Street.
Why pave when there weren’t any cars? Wagons, horses, and bicycles used those streets, which were perpetually either dusty or muddy. But paving improved more than just the streets, as suggested by a congratulatory article in the Caldwell Record that July. “Main Street is being paved, and it is certainly to the credit of its citizens that they are determined to retrieve the city from the mud and dust to which it has been subject and to make the capital of Idaho worthy of the name Boise the beautiful. It is to be remarked that trees and lawns are now bright and green and free of dust, something never before known at mid-summer in Boise.”
Trees free of dust were due to the paving project, and an aggressive street watering regimen adopted at the same time on the remaining dirt roads.
By 1910, when the photo below of paving on Fairview Avenue in Boise was taken, cars were beginning to be part of the mix.