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History of Nampa, Idaho

Idaho’s second largest city, Nampa, is 20 miles west of the capital city of Boise. Nampa was once known as New Jerusalem, and later was renamed for a Shoshone Indian Chief, Nampuh, which means big foot, according to local legend. Nampa got its start in 1883 when the Oregon Short Line Railroad installed a water tank and erected a sign on its station house. Like neighboring Caldwell just five miles west, Nampa is one of Idaho’s most productive agricultural areas. Both Nampa and Caldwell are in Canyon County, among the top producers of sweet corn seed, alfalfa, sugar beets, mint, onion, cattle and calves. In 1896, Colonel William Dewey became interested in Nampa and bought 2,000 lots upon which he built a majestic hotel called the Dewey Place at a cost of $243,000. The hotel was four stories high with 81 rooms. A pair of verandahs ran the length of the facade and at each end was a cupola tower sheeted with copper that could be seen in Caldwell five miles away. The interior boasted ceiling frescos, oak paneling and many amenities that are common at today’s luxury hotel properties. The hotel closed in 1956 and was demolished in 1963. Today, Nampa is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. In addition to its agricultural economic base, Nampa has a strong manufacturing industry, including computer equipment and computer chip manufacturers as well as a book publisher and a producer of health food supplements. Nampa is home to Northwest Nazarene University, a four-year Christian liberal arts college established in 1913. Canyon County’s original train depot, built in 1903, now houses the Canyon County Historical Museum featuring both county and Union Pacific Railroad memorabilia. Considered one of Idaho’s finest examples of Baroque revival architecture, the depot was originally built with separate waiting rooms for men and women to protect the “fairer sex” from swearing and tobacco spitting. It is home to the famous Snake River Stampede, headline event of the 10-day Snake River Dayz celebration each year in July. The Warhawk Museum is located at the Nampa Municipal Airport. Memorabilia of World War II greet the visitor with ration books, V Mail, Mothers Flags, sweetheart pillows, Victory Puzzles and many other items illustrating life on the home front during the war. See two of only a few remaining Curtiss P-40 World War II fighter planes and a rare World War II P-51C razorback Mustang fighter plane. There’s also a replica of the World War I DR-7 Fokker Tri-Plane, a German aircraft. South of Nampa at Lake Lowell is Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge where as many as 100,000 ducks and 10,000 geese have been counted at the important 11,000-acre wintering area. Much of the refuge is closed to the public certain months to protect Pacific Flyway waterfowl. Boating and fishing are allowed on the lake during the summer months and the lake is known as a prime spot for bass fishing.