Founded in 1907 by civic leader Thomas Jefferson Davis and named in memory of his wife, Julia Davis Park is at the center of several contiguous parks on the Boise River. The park’s east-west orientation along the river is echoed by an axial promenade flanked by formal gardens. Meandering paths and a perimeter road connect civic buildings situated on the park’s northern and western edges. Parkland comprised of lawn with shade trees occupies large areas of the park, with a constructed pond and stream that weaves through the zoo at the park’s center.
Between 1908 and 1918 the city began to upgrade the Davis property, and in 1912 hired landscape architect Arthur Peck to prepare a general development plan. Additional land donations from the Davis Estate expanded the park between 1922 and 1932, and the park reached its current 89.4 acres in 1941. Today Julia Davis Park is the cultural center of the city, as the site for Zoo Boise, built in 1916; Boise Art Museum, begun with Works Progress Administration funds in 1937; Idaho Black History Museum, housed in the historic St. Paul Baptist Church within the park; and the Idaho State Historical Museum, founded in 1907. The park also includes numerous art installations, memorials, and recreational activities, a bandshell built in 1928, a formal rose garden dedicated in 1939 with more than 2800 roses from Villa Nurseries in Oregon, and a pedestrian bridge connecting to Boise State University across the river.