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Alaska Facts and History
Have you ever heard of Glacier City, Alaska? Our story takes you to a historic place just 36 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska.
Pictured above is the Crow Creek mine in Glacier City.
How Our Story Began
In May 1896, James E. Girdwood boarded the steamer ship L.J. Perry to cross the still ice-filled Cook Inlet.
His destination was the gold rush towns of Hope and Sunrise.
The Captain of the steamer was Austin “Cap”: Lathrop. The same man who would later build the Empress movie theatre and the 4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska.
Destination, Glacier City
After spending some time in Hope and Sunrise, Girdwood decided to go across Cook Inlet to a tiny settlement called Glacier City. The settlement was a trading and transportation route located up in the Chugach mountain range.
James Girdwood put up a cabin in Glacier City and began looking for gold.
By 1900, Girdwood had four claims on Crow Creek near Glacier City.
In the years that followed, his claims were bringing in more than $106,000 dollars a year.
For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
Now if you have never heard of Glacier City… here’s why.
Because of James Girdwood’s success, he was given the honorary title of “Colonel”. And the other miners in Glacier City, renamed the settlement, “Girdwood”.
For years, the settlement of Girdwood continued to be a supply camp for many gold miners with claims to the creeks that feed into Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm.
The Alaska Railroad
In 1915, the town of Girdwood saw the Alaska Railroad come to town.
Yes, You Can Share the Fun
You can easily share this information-packed edition of the Anchorage Memories VIP Club with friends and family. And when you do, they will be so happy that they will buy you a gold mine… well it could happen.
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Hollywood Comes to Girdwood
In the photo above, notice that Austin E. Lathrop who once was the Captain of the steam ship L.J. Perry (that took James Girdwood across Cook Inlet in 1896) was the President of the Alaska Moving Picture Corporation.
Captain “Cap” Austin E. Lathrop who built the 4th Avenue Theater, the Impress and the Denali theater in Anchorage, wanted to produce movies in Alaska. So he put together the Alaska Moving Pictures Corp. and even built a studio in downtown Anchorage. That building later became the Anchorage Community Center.
The Alaska Moving Pictures Corp only ended up producing one movie -
“The Chechahcos” was shot in 1923 with a budget of $75,000, which wouldn't pay for catering on a big budget Hollywood movie these days.
Shot on location in Denali Park, and Girdwood, Alaska, where they used Bartlett Glacier to recreate the Chilkoot Pass Gold Rush trail.
Gold Takes a Toll
Over time, James Girdwood’s mining operations became too demanding. So, in the mid 1920s, he left Alaska to return to his home in New Jersey where he passed away in 1928.
Would you like to know more about James Girdwood?
Take a look at Girdwood on Crow Creek and enjoy.
Not Much Happening Here
By the 1930s, the mines had closed and there wasn’t much happening in Girdwood.
In the photo above is Girdwood in 1948
Wait a Minute – We’re Not Done Yet
But in 1954, the Alyeska Ski Corporation was formed. The mountains around Girdwood and the valley between them was a great place for a ski resort.
Then, in 1960, the first chairlift and Day Lodge were built and Girdwood was transformed into a destination for great skiing.
The 1964 Earthquake
On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, a 9.2 earthquake shook Alaska for 5 minutes.
During the quake, the land along Turnagain Arm, sank 6.6 feet, putting it well below the high tide of Cook Inlet. As a result, the original town site of Girdwood, which was located directly along Turnagain Arm, had to be moved farther up into the valley.
Salt water from Cook Inlet killed the trees, resulting in the Ghost Forest in Girdwood Valley.
A Girdwood Favorite Known World-Wide
In the picture above is the sign that tells you that you have arrived.
People come from all over the world to dine and enjoy some time in the Double Musky Inn, located in Girdwood.
Here’s your chance to discover how a stick of dynamite helped create this world-famous Inn. The story was written by Mike of Anchorage Memories.
Take a look at The Double Musky Inn and enjoy.
Did You Notice?
We have not included a picture of James E. Girdwood… The reason is that we couldn’t find one. Perhaps he was camera shy.
From Our North Stars (that’s you)
From our look at Anchorage First TV Memories
“My girlfriend and best friend Mike went to the Varsity Show (teen TV dance program) in the winter of 1963. We were so excited about being there and dancing. I remember when a student from West High let me know (being from East High) that “West was best and East was Least.” Well, she danced with me anyway!”
“In the late '50s I was a student at Anchorage High School on Romig Hill and was part of the high school dance band led by the Kalfas brothers, Don & Dennis. We played several times, in '58 and '59, in front of the TV cameras of KTVA channel 11 in the basement of the McKinley building. I played lead trumpet in the band and recall we played an arrangement of the Mancini hit tune, Peter Gunn. Thanks for the story.”
“I do recall coming home from 2nd grade in Spenard (1954-55) to join my brothers around our new TV to watch the test pattern.
Later, in the fall of 1957 when I was a 5th grader at the new Inlet View elementary school, the debut of Disney's Mickey Mouse Club prompted school officials to let classes out a little early.
My two brothers and I also appeared live as part of the Anchorage Nazarene Church's children's choir for one of the station's 1956 Christmas programming — broadcast from the KTVA channel 11 studio in the McKinley Bldg. As I recall. Little brother Ricky couldn't carry a tune then, but he was cute, so they wanted him in the front row — but asked him to lip-sync.”
“Annette of the Mickey Mouse Club was my favorite, but I loved them all. A friend in California had sent me copies of The Mickey Mouse Club Magazine before we ever got the show in Anchorage and I wanted so badly to see it – and then we got it! Still have my Carr's Mouseketeer membership card.”
“My first memories of TV in Anchorage were watching it on my Aunt and Uncle's home. Uncle Cecil bought a new TV for his family and my brothers and I were always on their living room floor watching TV as close to the screen as we could get. I don't recall any specific programming. It was certainly an experience for all of us.”
Connect with Mike and Mary
Did you enjoy learning about James Girdwood and how a town in Alaska became a world-famous Ski Resort?
We would love to hear from you… Don’t be shy, we’re all friends here. You can easily send us your comments by replying to this email.
Or, you can write and tell us what your favorite food is at the Double Musky Inn. You can Contact Us right now.
Until Nest Time
Mike and Mary