Do You Know the Fascinating History of Boise’s Famous Table Rock Cross?
There are certain things in the Treasure Valley that just “are.” When you’ve lived here for a long time you really don’t question them.
The turf is blue. Fries always come with a side of fry sauce. Eagle Road will most likely be a nightmare whenever you have somewhere to be. And there’s a cross on Table Rock. These are things you can count on as much as the sun rising in the morning.
Personally, we love Table Rock cross. It’s one of our favorite landmarks in the Treasure Valley and we never really questioned why it’s there or how it got there until we stumbled across a one-star review of the local landmark on Yelp. The reviewer believed that “Did we need to put a cross on it?” was a question for the ages. That was the first time we got curious about how it got there in the first place.
According to Idaho Architecture Project, the cross has been there since the Jaycee (Junior Chamber of Commerce) club finished in January 1956. Ultimately, they hoped that the cross would inspire better citizenship, higher ideas and happier living. Its construction on that site was a bit controversial since the land was owned by the Idaho Department of Corrections.
It wasn't until the City of Eugene got wrapped up in a separation of church and state lawsuit over a cement cross built at Skinner Butte, that the Jaycees asked the Department of Correction if they could buy the parcel of land the cross was anchored to. Instead of selling it to the club, they decided they didn't need it anymore and gave it to the Idaho Department of Lands. The Department of Lands put the parcel up for auction, allowing the Jaycees to purchase it for $100, making it private property and immune to the separation of church and state lawsuits.
Sounds like the cross got its happy ending there, right? Not so fast. In the mid-90s, the ACLU came after the Idaho Department of Lands accusing them of not actually allowing the public to bid in the auction which the Jaycees won the parcel through. That didn't pan out the way they expected it to and the cross got to stand in peace and quiet until the next controversy came screaming into Boise.
That controversy spilled out of the mouth of Chicago-based atheist, Rob Sherman, who also claimed the auction took place illegally and called for it to be torn down while speaking at Boise State. His speech got the attention of the New York Times, but backfired when over 10,000 people showed up for a protest in favor of the cross. An Ada County brochure titled "Boise's Foothill Jewels: The Many Facets of Table Rock & Castle Rock" explains that Sherman never went to court over Table Rock because he lost a similar challenge in California.
From what we know, that was the last time anyone put up a huge stink about one of the most recognizable symbols in Boise.
The Table Rock Cross isn’t the only large cross overlooking the Treasure Valley’s beautiful landscapes. In fact it wasn’t even the first. You’ll find another one at Lizard Butte near Marsing. There’s a wonderful sunrise Easter service that’s taken place there for decades.
According to the Lizard Butte’s website, they originally put up the cross for their first service in 1938 only to have it destroyed by vandals two years later. The first cross was made of wood and was set on fire. Organizers replaced it with a cross made of reinforced concrete and it's been standing proud at the top of the hill ever since.
KEEP READING: 10 of Idaho's Most Mysterious Places Hiding in Plain Sight
Eerie Video Shows What's Left of One of Idaho's Most Unique Ghost Towns
Camp In One of Idaho's Eerie Ghost Towns For Under $10 a Night