Editor’s Note: The evening event on Wednesday, September 6 at the 2023 AASLH Annual Conference will be held at the Old Idaho Penitentiary district in Boise, Idaho. In this post, Anthony Parry, the administrator of the Old Idaho Penitentiary provides an overview of what attendees will be able to see and experience. Pre-registration was required for this event. AASLH thanks the Foundation for Idaho History for sponsoring all of this year’s evening events. Registration for the conference is no longer open online, but you can register at the conference, which will be held at the Boise Centre, located at 850 West Front Street in Boise. Learn more about the 2023 Annual Conference

By Anthony Parry, Administrator at the Old Idaho Penitentiary

History and nature enthusiasts have a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a captivating experience. The Old Pen District, nestled in the heart of Boise, Idaho, will be a hub of activity during the 2023 AASLH Annual Conference evening event on Wednesday, September 6. This annual gathering not only celebrates the rich history of the region but also showcases its natural beauty. From the infamous Old Idaho Penitentiary to the serene Idaho Botanical Garden, the Old Pen District offers a diverse range of attractions that cater to every visitor’s interests.

Old Idaho Penitentiary: Unveiling the Past
Step back in time at the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site. This iconic site served as a functional prison from 1872 to 1973, housing thousands of residents throughout its history. During the AASLH event, attendees are treated to tours and exhibitions that delve into the fascinating stories of notorious criminals, prison disturbances, individuals from around the world, and the evolution of the American penal system. The Penitentiary’s preserved cell blocks, administrative offices, gallows, and solitary confinement cells offer an enlightening insight into the harsh realities of life behind bars from Idaho’s “wild west” justice to the 1970s.

Boise Bishops’ House: A Glimpse of Victorian Elegance
Adjacent to the Old Idaho Penitentiary stands the Boise Bishops’ House, a charming Victorian residence that stands in stark contrast to its penitentiary neighbor. Constructed in the 1880s, this beautifully restored house provides a window into the lives of the affluent citizens of the time. AASLH attendees can explore the intricately designed rooms, period furniture, and lush gardens that transport them back to the Victorian era. The house’s architecture and décor offer a glimpse into Boise’s past that is as intriguing as it is aesthetically pleasing.

Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology: Beneath the Surface
The Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology offers a unique and informative experience for those with a fascination for geology and mining history. This museum preserves and showcases the state’s rich geological heritage and its significant role in the mining industry. The AASLH event allows visitors to discover a trove of minerals, fossils, and mining equipment, while also gaining insights into the challenges and triumphs that marked the history of mining in the region.

Idaho Botanical Garden: Nature’s Tranquil Haven
As attendees immerse themselves in the history of the Old Pen District, they can reconnect with nature at the Idaho Botanical Garden. This lush garden offers visitors a chance to explore a diverse range of flora with themed gardens, serene walking paths, and educational programs. The AASLH event encourages visitors to embrace the tranquility of the garden while reflecting on the natural beauty that has always been an integral part of the region.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply curious about the past, the AASLH event in the Old Pen District promises a rich and rewarding experience. By bringing together these distinct organizations, the event celebrates the multifaceted identity of the district, inviting visitors to embark on a journey that embraces both history and nature in all their splendor.