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Moscow, Idaho
City
UI Arboretum with Palouse in background.
UI Arboretum with Palouse in background.
Official seal of Moscow, Idaho
Seal
Motto: Heart of the Arts
Location in Latah County and the state of Idaho
Location in Latah County and the state of Idaho
Country United States
State Idaho
County Latah
Settled 1871
Incorporated (town) 1887
Area
 • Total 6.85 sq mi (17.7 km2)
 • Land 6.85 sq mi (17.7 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 2,579 ft (786 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 23,800
 • Estimate (2015) 25,730
 • Density 3,474.5/sq mi (1,341.5/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) Pacific Daylight (UTC-7)
ZIP code 83843
Area code(s) 208
FIPS code 16-54550
GNIS feature ID 0400006
Website ci.moscow.id.us
Moscow First United Methodist Church
First United Methodist Church (1904), S. Adams at E. 3rd St.

Moscow (/ˈmɒsk/ MOSS-koh) is a city in northern Idaho along the state border with Washington, with a population of 23,800 at the 2010 census. The county seat and largest city of Latah County, Moscow is the home of the University of Idaho, the state's land grant institution and primary research university, as well as the home of New Saint Andrews College, a Christian liberal arts college.

It is the principal city in the Moscow, Idaho Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Latah County. The city contains over 60% of the county's population, and while the university is Moscow's dominant employer, the city also serves as an agricultural and commercial hub for the Palouse region.

Along with the rest of northern Idaho, Moscow is in the Pacific Time Zone, the elevation of its city center is 2,579 feet (786 m) above sea level. Major highways serving the city are US-95 (north-south) and Highway 8 (east-west), both of which are routed through central Moscow. Limited commercial air service is four miles west (6 km) at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport.

Geography and natural history

Moscow-view-id-us
Looking south at Moscow in April 2007

Main Street runs north-south through Moscow along the 117th meridian west.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.85 square miles (17.74 km2), all of it land.

Moscow lies on the eastern edge of the Palouse region of north central Idaho in the Columbia River Plateau. East of the city is a valley within the mountains of the Palouse Range to the northeast, whose highest point is Moscow Mountain at 4,983 feet (1,519 m) above sea level. The less prominent Paradise Ridge at 3,702 feet (1,128 m) and Tomer Butte at 3,474 feet (1,059 m) are southeast of the city. Paradise Creek, with headwaters on Moscow Mountain to the northeast, flows through Moscow, then crosses the state border and joins the south fork of the Palouse River near Pullman, which eventually drains into the Snake River and Columbia River on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

The geology in and around Moscow represents varied formations: very old intrusive granite structures of the JurassicEocene Idaho Batholith, fertile fields atop rolling hills of deep Pleistocene loess of the Palouse Formation deposited after the last ice age by westerly winds, and flood-worn channels of the Columbia River Basalt Group.

There is a variety of flora and fauna within the vicinity of Moscow. An amphibian, the Rough-skinned Newt, has a disjunctive population at Moscow; this species is found typically along the Pacific coast of the USA. The city sits at the boundary between the Palouse grasslands and wheat fields, and the conifer forests of the Rocky Mountains to the east.

History

UI-arboretum-spring-moscow-id-us
UI Arboretum's north entrance
Palouse, moscow, idaho
Palouse Hills

Miners and farmers began arriving in the northern Idaho area after the Civil War. The first permanent settlers came to the Moscow area 149 years ago in 1871. The abundance of camas bulbs, a favorite fodder of pigs brought by the farmers, led to naming the vicinity "Hog Heaven." When the first US post office opened in 1872, the town was called "Paradise Valley," but the name was changed to "Moscow" in 1875. The name Paradise persists with the main waterway through town, Paradise Creek, which originates at the west end of the Palouse Range, flows south to the Troy Highway, and west to Pullman where it enters the South Fork of the Palouse River.

The precise origin of the name Moscow has been disputed. There is no conclusive proof that it has any connection to the Russian city, though various accounts suggest it was purposely evocative of the Russian city or named by Russian immigrants. Another account claims that the name derives from a Native American tribe named "Masco". It was reported by early settlers that five men in the area met to choose a proper name for the town, but could not come to agreement on a name. The postmaster Samuel Neff then completed the official papers for the town and selected the name Moscow. Interestingly, Neff was born in Moscow, Pennsylvania and later moved to Moscow, Iowa.

The business district was established by 1875 and the town was a center of commerce for the region. By 1890, the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company's rail line (later the Union Pacific) and the Northern Pacific railroad line helped to boost the town's population to 2000.

Alternative Note on Name and Early History

Copy of a letter from Northern Pacific Railway agent in Moscow, likely R.W. Morris, to C.E. Arney, the Northern Pacific's Western Immigration and Indian Agent in Spokane, Washington. Arney wrote all station agents in Idaho on May 12, 1922, requesting the origin of the names of their stations for the NP's travel publication Wonderland, edited by Olin D. Wheeler. Moscow's agent replied May 15, 1922, as follows:

"I called ex-Governor William J. McConnell [Republican, 1893-1897, 1839-1925], who was on the ground when the name was selected.

"He advises there is very little history in connection with the name. A Russian from Moscow, Russia, established a trading post here, where Moscow now stands, and they decided to name it Moscow after his native city in Russia.

"Previous to locating Moscow, there was a trading post about one mile southeast of here. The above mentioned Russian was successful in getting a post office here, and the trading post, which was known as Paradise Valley, was abolished.

"The surrounding country was known as Horse Heaven Country, account grass grew well, and the Indians grazed large herds of horses."

Original document at the University of Montana, Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library, K. Ross Toole Archives, Collection 178, Box 210, Folder 10.

The capital of the Idaho Territory was relocated from Lewiston to Boise in December 1864. In the late 1880s, statehood for the Washington Territory was nearing. Because its commercial and transportation interests looked west, rather than south, the citizens of the Idaho Panhandle passionately lobbied for their region to join Washington, or to form an entirely separate state, rather than remain connected with the less accessible southern Idaho. To appease the residents of the north, the territorial legislature of Idaho in Boise placed the new land grant university in Moscow, which at the time was the largest city other than Boise in the state. The University of Idaho was chartered in January 1889, and first opened its doors to students in October 1892.

In March 1890, Moscow's neighboring city, Pullman, was selected as the home of Washington's land grant institution. The college which became Washington State University opened its doors in January 1892. Washington entered the union as the 42nd state in November 1889 and Idaho entered next, eight months later, in July 1890.

Moscow City Hall and Old Post Office

MoscowCityHall2016
The Old Post Office, constructed in 1910, now the current City Hall (2016)

Moscow Public Library

Members of the Pleiades Club and Ladies' Historical Club formed a cooperative named the Women's Reading Room Society and established a small library in the Browne building at the corner of Main and Second Streets in 1902.

In 1904, the committee planned to raise funds for a new library building. Andrew Carnegie promised funding of $10,000 if the community agreed to maintain a free public library at the rate of at least $1000 annually. Moscow voters approved a permanent tax in 1905 and with successful fundraising by subscription of local residents and businesses, coupled with the Carnegie library money, the library construction was begun in 1905. In March 1906, the Mission Style building was ready for occupancy. Later that month, a fire at the university's Administration Building totally destroyed that structure, so the new library was used for university classes during the day and residents used the library in the evening. Beginning in 1907 the building was returned to full use as a library. The original library building (which is on the National Register of Historic Places) was expanded in 1931 and 1983. It houses a children's room named for Moscow native Carol Ryrie Brink, the author of 1936 Newbery Medal winner Caddie Woodlawn.

In 2006, the Friends of the Library celebrated a Century of Service for the organization. The current organizational structure of library service encompasses all public libraries in Latah County as the Latah County Library District. The library enjoys broad support from the citizens of Moscow and the County and is also supported by the Idaho Commission for Libraries (formerly the Idaho State Library.) To commemorate the first century of the library, an essay competition was held. One young writer wrote:

We are fortunate enough to be able to walk a few blocks down to the public library and check out whatever we want. Libraries are valuable and available to everyone, regardless of wealth. Anyone can and everyone should get a library card. I am very grateful that we have a public library in Latah County.
—Elizabeth Nielsen (2006)

The Moscow Public Library currently houses about 60% of Latah County Library District's 100,000 volume collection. Administrative, technical, youth services, and branch services offices for the Library District are all housed at this location as well. The library offers year-round programming for all ages, including storytimes and a summer reading program for children, book clubs for teenagers and adults, and presentations by outside experts and organizations. The library also offers public Internet access computers as well as free wifi.

The library serves as resource for all the residents of Moscow, or as one essayist (Ellis Clark) in the 2006 contest states, "When time, money, or circumstances bind you to one locale, the Library is your passport for travel."

Changes

The opening of Moscow Mall (now Eastside Marketplace) and the Palouse Empire Mall (now Palouse Mall) in the late 1970s shifted many retail businesses away from the aging city center, with buildings dating to the 1890s. The city developed a revitalization project for downtown in the early 1970s that included a major traffic revision, which was enacted in 1981. Traffic from US 95 on Main Street was diverted a block away to one-way corridors on Washington (northbound) and Jackson (southbound) streets, to alleviate congestion and improve pedestrian safety and the overall city center experience. Main Street was converted from four busy lanes with metered parallel parking to two lanes of local retail traffic with free diagonal parking; its sidewalks were modified and trees were added. At the north end of Moscow, southbound highway traffic divided west at 'D' Street to Jackson and returned to Main at 8th; the northbound route divided east at 8th, but returned to Main four blocks earlier in the north end, at 1st Street.

Moscow-id-us-main-st-rain
Downtown Moscow in 2007,
at Main & 5th streets

The original 90-degree couplets used existing streets of the grid and were intended to be temporary, but remained for years. The primary safety hazard was inexperienced truck drivers; excessive speed through the tight corners led to toppled loads and subsequent traffic snarls, with occasional damage to adjacent structures. The new, straighter couplets at the north end are both over a block in length and eliminated existing structures. The return couplet from Washington Street runs from 1st Street to beyond 'A' Street; it eliminated the original front portion (white stucco chapel) of the Corner Club tavern at the northeast corner of 'A' and Main, which was demolished in early 1991 after staving off its elimination for over a decade. The building on the southeast corner, the Idaho Hotel, built in 1890, was razed for the traffic project in 1977 and was a vacant lot for over a decade.

The first of the new couplets was completed during the summer of 1991. The new southbound couplet to Jackson Street was completed the following year in 1992 and begins north of 'C' Street. It eliminated a former service station at the northwest corner of 'C' and Main, which had been converted to other retail for over a decade. The critical couplet at the south end of the city was delayed several times for various reasons. Completed in 2000, it is two blocks south and one block east of the 1981 divider at 8th Street. After Sweet Avenue, northbound Main Street bends a block east to align with northbound one-way Washington Street, intersecting the two-way Troy Highway from the southeast. Southbound US 95 traffic joins the intersection from the northwest, arriving on a one-way diagonal from Jackson Street. Agricultural buildings on the block between Jackson and Main (College St. to Lewis St.) were razed in the late 1990s to complete this new corridor.

Another significant change to local commerce was the increase of the state's legal drinking age to 21 in April 1987, after nearly fifteen years at age 19. Many establishments that relied on revenues from 19- and 20-year-olds from the two university communities had to adjust or cease operations. Prior to the lowering to 19 in July 1972, the drinking age in Idaho was 20 for beer and 21 for liquor and wine.

A fixture of the Moscow skyline for nearly a century, the concrete grain elevators on south Main Street were demolished in March 2007. Located on the southwest corner of 8th & Main, the elevators were last operated by the Latah County Grain Growers. The other major concrete elevator complex, on Jackson Street south of 6th, was also slated for the wrecking ball. Idle since 2005, it was saved by a preservationist group in 2007. Its newer large-diameter metal silo hosted summer theater productions in 2011.

Transportation

Highways

  • US 95.svg - US 95 (Main St) - to Coeur d'Alene (north) and Lewiston (south)
  • ID-8.svg - SH-8 (Pullman Road) - to Pullman (west) and Troy (east); with paved trails (see next section)

Airports

The Pullman-Moscow Regional is 5 miles (8.0 km) west, just east of Pullman. Other nearby airports are the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport, (34 miles (55 km) south), and Spokane International, 90 miles (140 km) north.

Rail/Bus service

Amtrak passenger train service is available in Spokane, and there is a bus station in downtown Moscow.

Parks and recreation

Moscow, Idaho Renaissance Fair Maypole Dance
Maypole Dancers in East City Park.

There are seventeen neighborhood parks located throughout the town offering a wide variety of venues for outdoor activities. These parks fall under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Parks and Recreation Department. The Moscow Pathways Commission (formerly Paradise Path Task Force) is a citizen committee seeking to develop a system of linearly connected parks throughout the area. Carol Ryrie Brink Nature Park was a community collaboration between the Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute and local volunteers to remeander Paradise Creek and add riparian plantings. The Moscow community, including schools and the city, led by local youth, raised money over several years to fund, design, and build a skate park which was completed in 2000.

The Latah Trail, completed in October 2008, extends from the eastern edge of Moscow bike path system to Troy, parallel to the Troy Highway (SH-8) for most of its 12 miles (19 km). On the west side of Moscow, the Bill Chipman Trail connects the two university communities of the Palouse. Starting at the UI's Perimeter Road, it gradually descends with Paradise Creek for 8 miles (13 km) to Pullman through Whitman County, alongside the Moscow-Pullman Highway. Completed in April 1998, the trail honors a Pullman businessman (and UI alumnus) who died two years earlier, following a winter highway accident in Spokane County. The Paradise Path bridges the gap in Moscow between the endpoints of the Chipman and Latah trails, passing through the north and east edges of the UI campus. The trail systems together constitute a continuous 22-mile (35 km) paved linear park from Pullman to Troy, extending in Troy beyond the eastern boundary of the Palouse ecosystem. From Pullman to the western boundary of Moscow (the state line), it follows the right of way of a dismantled Union Pacific railroad line, and east of US-95 it follows the right of way of a dismantled BNSF railroad line that junctioned at Arrow on the Clearwater River by way of Troy, Kendrick, and Juliaetta.

A small park in Moscow, Idaho, near the University of Idaho, is named for Admiral Ghormley.

Arts and culture

The city was highlighted in a comedy special at University of Idaho by actor-comedian Yakov Smirnoff, filmed in late 1990. Using Moscow as its setting pokes fun at Smirnoff emigrating from Moscow, Russia.

Name Dates Location Notes
Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival February, last weekend Multiple venues Main concerts: Kibbie Dome
Moscow Hemp Fest April, mid-month East City Park
Renaissance Fair May, first weekend East City Park Multiple stages and events
Farmers Market May–October, Saturdays Main Street 8am - 1pm
Rendezvous in the Park July, third week East City Park
Light up the Night Parade December 1 Main Street

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 76
1900 2,484
1910 3,670 47.7%
1920 3,956 7.8%
1930 4,476 13.1%
1940 6,014 34.4%
1950 10,593 76.1%
1960 11,183 5.6%
1970 14,146 26.5%
1980 16,513 16.7%
1990 18,519 12.1%
2000 21,291 15.0%
2010 23,800 11.8%
Est. 2015 25,060 5.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 23,800 people, 9,180 households, and 4,335 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,474.5 inhabitants per square mile (1,341.5/km2). There were 9,879 housing units at an average density of 1,442.2 per square mile (556.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.9% White, 1.1% African American, 0.6% Native American, 3.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.6% of the population.

There were 9,180 households of which 22.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.8% were married couples living together, 6.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.4% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.8% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.91.

The median age in the city was 24.2 years. 16.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 36.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.7% were from 25 to 44; 15.6% were from 45 to 64; and 7.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 51.8% male and 48.2% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 21,291 people, 7,724 households, and 3,869 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,460.6 people per square mile (1,336.7 per km²). There were 8,029 housing units at an average density of 1,305.0 per square mile (504.1 per km²). The racial makeup of the city was:

  • 92.23% White
  • 0.91% African American
  • 0.80% Native American
  • 3.13% Asian
  • 0.14% Pacific Islander
  • 0.97% from other races
  • 1.82% from two or more races

Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.47% of the population.

There were 7,724 households out of which 24.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.0% were married couples living together, 6.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.9% were non-families. 29.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows:

  • 16.1% under the age of 18
  • 35.8% from 18 to 24
  • 26.3% from 25 to 44
  • 14.0% from 45 to 64
  • 7.8% 65 years of age or older

The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 109.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 110.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,884, and the median income for a family was $46,331. Males had a median income of $35,494 versus $24,560 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,930. About 9.5% of families and 22.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.2% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.

Climate

According to the Köppen climate classification system, Moscow has a dry-summer continental climate (Köppen Dsb).

Climate data for Moscow, Idaho
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 58
(14.4)
66
(18.9)
73
(22.8)
88
(31.1)
94
(34.4)
105
(40.6)
105
(40.6)
109
(42.8)
100
(37.8)
88
(31.1)
73
(22.8)
60
(15.6)
109
(42.8)
Average high °F (°C) 37.0
(2.78)
41.8
(5.44)
50.0
(10)
58.0
(14.44)
66.6
(19.22)
73.1
(22.83)
83.7
(28.72)
84.9
(29.39)
75.4
(24.11)
60.6
(15.89)
43.9
(6.61)
35.2
(1.78)
58.5
(14.72)
Average low °F (°C) 25.1
(-3.83)
26.6
(-3)
31.4
(-0.33)
35.5
(1.94)
40.9
(4.94)
45.2
(7.33)
48.5
(9.17)
48.7
(9.28)
42.8
(6)
36.0
(2.22)
30.4
(-0.89)
23.5
(-4.72)
36.3
(2.39)
Record low °F (°C) −30
(-34.4)
−26
(-32.2)
−5
(-20.6)
11
(-11.7)
19
(-7.2)
28
(-2.2)
27
(-2.8)
30
(-1.1)
20
(-6.7)
2
(-16.7)
−14
(-25.6)
−42
(-41.1)
−42
(-41.1)
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.13
(79.5)
2.34
(59.4)
2.69
(68.3)
2.52
(64)
2.52
(64)
1.90
(48.3)
0.97
(24.6)
1.00
(25.4)
1.21
(30.7)
2.22
(56.4)
3.61
(91.7)
2.98
(75.7)
27.16
(689.9)
Snowfall inches (cm) 15.1
(38.4)
6.6
(16.8)
4.3
(10.9)
1.0
(2.5)
.2
(0.5)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
.1
(0.3)
5.6
(14.2)
14.9
(37.8)
47.3
(120.1)
Avg. precipitation days 14.7 13.1 14.3 11.6 11.0 8.9 5.7 4.9 6.5 8.9 16.4 14.4 130.4
Avg. snowy days 7.4 4.9 2.9 .7 .1 0 0 0 0 .3 3.9 7.4 27.6
Source #1: NOAA
Source #2: The Weather Channel (records)

Sister cities

Moscow has one sister city, as designated by Sister Cities International:

  • Nicaragua Villa Carlos Fonseca, Nicaragua

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