Nampa began its life in the early 1880s when the Oregon Short Line Railroad built a line from Granger, Wyoming, to Huntington, Oregon, which passed through Nampa. More railroad lines sprang up running through Nampa, making it a very important railroad town. Alexander and Hannah Duffes established one of the town’s first homesteads, eventually forming the Nampa Land and Improvement Company with the help of their friend and co-founder, James McGee. In spite of the name, many of the first settlers referred to the town as “New Jerusalem” because of the strong religious focus of its citizens. After only a year the town had grown from 15 homes to 50. As new amenities were added to the town, Nampa continued its growth and was incorporated in 1890.
Unlike most towns in that historic era with streets running true north and south, Nampa’s historic roads run perpendicular to the railroad tracks that travel northwest to southeast through the town. Thus, the northside is really the northeast side of the tracks, and the southside is really the southwest side of the railroad tracks. Founder Alexander Duffes laid out Nampa’s streets this way to prevent an accident like one that occurred earlier in a town he had platted near Toronto, Canada. In that town, a woman and her two children were killed by a train when they started across the railroad tracks in a buggy and the wheel got stuck. As the Oregon Short Line railroad originally bypassed Boise, Nampa has the fanciest of many railroad depots built in the area.
Nampa held an annual harvest festival and farmers’ market from about 1908, a time of celebration and community fun. From this festival emerged the Snake River Stampede Rodeo in 1937, which continues to this day. It is one of the top 12 rodeos in the pro rodeo circuits.
A local congregation of the Church of the Nazarene built a small elementary school in 1913, later growing to Northwest Nazarene College in 1915 and finally to Northwest Nazarene University. The university currently has a student body of 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students.
Karcher Mall opened in 1965, the first indoor shopping mall in the Treasure Valley. Many area residents have memories of having an Orange Julius, sitting on Santa’s lap, or playing games at the Red Baron arcade in the mall. Karcher Mall was “the place to gather” for several decades until the Boise Towne Square mall was built in Boise in 1988, drawing business away. Karcher Mall struggled for many years, but is now making a comeback. With a new I-84 interchange nearby, the area is booming with new business.
Nampa is growing fast, with new homes, new shopping centers and new roads. Treasure Valley Marketplace north of the Karcher Interchange has a number of retailers including Costco, Target, Best Buy, Cost Plus World Market, Olive Garden, Michael’s, DressBarn, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Petco and Kohl’s. Across from Treasure Valley Marketplace is located a second shopping center containing a McDonald’s. The Nampa Gateway Center is a shopping center under development near the Idaho Center off the Garrity Boulevard Exit of Interstate 84. J.C. Penney, the Sports Authority, Macy’s, the Idaho Athletic Club, and Edwards Cinema are located in the Nampa Gateway Center. Wal-Mart is also in the same area.
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