Nobody knows for sure where Nampa got its name. The belief is that it came from a Native American word for moccasin. Native Americans stuffed their moccasins with sagebrush to keep warm, making a larger footprint.
Nampa was founded in 1886 by Europeans,and a year later had grown from 15 homes to 50. As new amenities were added to the town, Nampa continued to grow. It was incorporated in 1890.
Unlike most towns in that historic era with streets running true north and south, Nampa's historic roads run perpendicular to the railroad tracks that travel northwest to southeast through the town. Thus, the northside is really the northeast side of the tracks, and the southside is really the southwest side of the railroad tracks. Founder Alexander Duffes laid out Nampa's streets this way to prevent an accident like one that occurred earlier in a town he had platted near Toronto, Canada. In that town, a woman and her two children were killed by a train when they started across the railroad tracks in a buggy and the wheel got stuck. Nampa has the fanciest of many Oregon Short Line Railroad depots built in the area.
The first elementary school was built in the 1890s. Lakeview school was located on a hill on 6th Street and 12th Avenue North, with a view of Lake Ethel. Just after the school's centennial celebration, it was condemned as a school and sold to the First Mennonite Church. In 2008 the building was refurbished, and is now being used by the Idaho Arts Charter School.
Colonel William H. Dewey, a man who made a fortune mining in Silver City, seeing the advantage of 4 railroad lines, built the elegant Dewey Palace Hotel in 1902 for a quarter of a million dollars. Colonel Dewey died in his hotel in 1903, leaving his son a million dollars. The hotel survived the great fire of 1909, which burned several blocks of downtown Nampa, but was razed in 1963 because no one wanted to invest in renovating the grand structure. Relics from the hotel, such as the chandelier and the hotel safe can be found at the Canyon County Historical Museum, which is housed in the old train depot on Front Street and Nampa City Hall. After demolition the location on first street between 11th and 12th Ave. South was sold to private enterprise including a bank and tire store replacing this historic building with the current modern structures. A public-use postage stamp sized park was later placed across the street from the old palace property as a collaboration between the Downtown Alliance of Nampa (the local business council) and an Eagle Scout Project for the Boy Scouts of America. The park includes a large mural/wall sculpture of running horses that was commissioned for the project.
A Carnegie library was built downtown in 1908. It burned down after the library moved in 1966. The Nampa Public Library is now located on the corner of 1st Street and 11th Avenue South in the old bank building.
Deer Flat Reservoir, an offstream irrigation storage reservoir, was constructed by the United States Reclamation Service between 1906 and 1911. Known locally as Lake Lowell, it is surrounded by the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1909 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Idaho State School and Hospital was built in Nampa in 1910, for the state's developmentally challenged population. It opened in 1918. The institution was largely self sufficient. It had a large farm which was worked by the residents. The higher functioning residents also cared for residents who couldn't do anything for themselves. Much has changed in the care of persons with developmental disabilities from the time of the state school's opening. The old farm has been sold as a golf course, and residents no longer give primary care to other residents. The institution is much more modern and remains in operation, though a few of the old buildings are now used to house juvenile offenders.
Nampa held an annual harvest festival and farmers' market from about 1908. It was a time of celebration and community fun. From this festival emerged the Snake River Stampede Rodeo in 1937, which continues to this day. It is one of the top twelve rodeos in the pro rodeo circuits.
A local congregation of the Church of the Nazarene built a small elementary school in 1913, later growing to Northwest Nazarene College in 1915 and finally to Northwest Nazarene University. The university currently educates about 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students.
In 1965, the Karcher Mall was built, becoming the first indoor shopping mall in the Treasure Valley. Many area residents have memories of having an Orange Julius, sitting on Santa's lap (Arthur Yensen), or playing games at the Red Baron arcade in the mall. Karcher Mall was "the place to gather" for several decades until the Boise Towne Square was built in Boise in 1988, drawing the business and shoppers away. Karcher Mall, having struggled for many years, is now making a comeback. With the new I-84 interchange nearby, the area is booming with new business.
Nampa is growing fast, with new homes, new shopping centers and new roads. Treasure Valley Marketplace north of the Karcher Interchange has Costco, Target, Best Buy, Cost Plus World Market, Olive Garden, Michael's, DressBarn, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Kohl's. Across from it, is Sportsman's Warehouse and a McDonald's is currently under construction. Off the Garrity Exit, near the Idaho Center, Nampa Gateway Center has J.C. Penney. Other large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Sam's Club are in the same area.
Nampa also is home to part of the Vallivue School District. Which has Sage Valley Middle School, Desert Springs Elementary, Birch Elementary, and East Canyon Elementary all located in Nampa.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.9 square miles. 19.9 sq mi of it is land and 0.04 sq mi of it (0.10%) is water.
ZIP codes: 83651, 83686, 83687.
As of the census of 2000, there were 51,867 people, 18,090 households, and 13,024 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,612.3 people per square mile (1,008.9/km²). There were 19,379 housing units at an average density of 976.0/sq mi (376.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 83.45% White, 0.40% African American, 0.94% Native American, 0.93% Asian, 0.18% Pacific Islander, 11.25% from other races, and 2.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.90% of the population.
There were 18,090 households out of which 40.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.6% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 22.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.25.
In the city the population was spread out with 31.0% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 15.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,758, and the median income for a family was $39,434. Males had a median income of $28,580 versus $22,022 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,491. About 8.7% of families and 12.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.7% of those under age 18 and 9.9% of those age 65 or over.