It's something we never really thought about until it was called out in several negative reviews of Boise's most popular hiking trail on Yelp.
Like the sky being blue or the grass being green, we just accepted the 60 foot tall cross perched at the end of Table Rock's plateau as something that just "is." However, one Yelp reviewer felt like "Did we need to put a cross on it?" was a question for the ages, so that's when we got curious about why it was actually there.
According to Idaho Architecture Project, the cross has been there since the Jaycee (Junior Chamber of Commerce) club finished in in January 1956. Ultimately, they hoped that the cross would inspire better citizenship, higher ideas and happier living. It's 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 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 that the Jaycees won the parcel in. That didn't pan out the way the expected 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 about 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.