History of the Table Rock Cross

According to Preservation Idaho, the idea for the cross came from an episode of “This is Your Life,” a show from the 1950s.

BOISE, Idaho — This Easter Sunday, like every other Sunday in the Treasure Valley, the Table Rock Cross stands over the valley and has become an iconic landmark. 

The permanent fixture can be easily glazed over, as one becomes accustomed to that sort of thing, and may appear to be one of the older parts of Boise. However, the cross was only built in 1956.

According to the Idaho Architecture Project, the cross was built by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The club’s focus was promoting Christianity in the state.

“The idea for the cross came from an episode of “This is Your Life,” a program airing in the 1950s, in which a rural mail carrier was honored for helping his community during his mail route for more than 35 years. His dream had been to build a cross overlooking his town, and the community made this happen,” the website stated. 

 In the 50s, the nation was also dealing with the “Red Scare,” a time when there was a fervor of anti-Communist sentiment and laws enacted to prevent it.

“In Boise, this is reflected in the envisioning and planning of the Table Rock cross. It is also a reflection of the Red Scare of this era –during the 1950s a wave of McCarthyism and anti-Communist sentiments swept the nation, and the cross was built on the assumption that Communists were “atheist” and the cross would serve as a beacon of anti-communist sentiment for the city of Boise. It stands today as a Cold War religious monument,” the website states. 

The cross has always been controversial, some see it as a beacon of faith and devotion, but there have also been lawsuits arguing the issue of separation of church and state because it was built on Idaho Department of Corrections land. There have also been incidents of vandalism. 

Yet, the cross has remained, and the Idaho Architecture Project states it’s now become a sort of sentimental landmark for Boiseans, even those who aren’t religious.

Excerpt from the website:

The cross is a sentimental landmark to many residents of Boise. On April 30, 2006, Kim and Brenna Forney were married under the cross. There are also countless stories of hope for the suffering centered around the cross. As the landmark is clearly visible from many windows of St. Luke’s hospital of Boise, Phyllis Kelly tells of the cross giving her and her husband a sense of comfort and care before his heart surgery, scheduled for the next morning. Nancy Berry tells of her husband looking to the cross from his hospital bed where he lay paralyzed from a cancerous tumor and feeling a sense of peace. It serves as a sort of lighthouse for travelers returning home and a symbol of “faith, moral values and integrity” in the community, in the words of Louis and Betty Demster. The cross also marks the place where the Table Rock quarry was once actively in use, employing people of many nationalities (Basque, Italian, Swedish) and providing stone for many of Boise’s downtown buildings. All of these people responded to a call by the Idaho Statesman to send their thoughts and stories regarding the controversial issue in 1999 and the march to occur on November 27th. Most argued for its continual stay, and only a few objected, some on the grounds that it drove home to immigrants that they were “strangers in a strange land.”

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