Anchorage Downtown History

Do you know the history of some of downtown Anchorage's oldest businesses and buildings? The old Federal building, Stewart's Photo Shop and Kimball's Dry Goods. Enjoy Anchorage's rich history.

The Old Federal Building in 1941 just after completion

You saw this historic building every time you went to see a movie in downtown Anchorage.

Located right across the street from the 4th Avenue Theater, the old Federal Building sits on the site originally designated in 1915 for the Federal Reserve Bank.

The first building on the site was a Post Office, then a U.S. Marshall’s office and a Territorial jail.

The Federal Building was constructed in stages from 1939 to 1941.

The 49th Star

To celebrate Alaska becoming the 49th state in the union on January 3, 1959, a huge 48 star flag was displayed on the wall of the Federal Building facing 4th Avenue (seen above).

Then, the Fur Rendezvous Queen was hoisted up on the ladder of a fire truck, so she could pin a special “49th” star on the flag to represent Alaska.

Look closely at the picture above and you can see the special star on the flag.

In 1978, the old Federal Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Read more about The Old Federal Building right now.

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Stewart’s Photo Shop, 531 West 4th Avenue

Did you know that Stewart’s is located in Anchorage’s oldest building?

It was originally a meat market.

Ivan and Ora Stewart first began Stewart’s Photo back in 1942. But it wasn’t in Anchorage. It was located in Kodiak, Alaska.

A year later, the husband and wife team brought their business to Anchorage.

If you enjoyed taking pictures, Stewart’s Photo Shop was the place to go. Ivan and Ora were friendly and knew photography.

Mike of Anchorage Memories loved going into Stewart’s and used to buy those short 8mm versions of Hollywood movies and cartoons that they carried.

What are your memories of Stewart’s Photo Shop?

Check out Stewart’s Photo Shop and scroll down the page to see old photos right now.

Remember Star the Reindeer?

Ivan and Ora brought Star to Anchorage in 1962.

The female reindeer was given the name “Star” because of a white fur starburst between her eyes.

You could sometimes see Star teathered to a parking meter right out in front of Stewarts, so passers by and tourists could take pictures with Star.

The original Star lived to be 23 years old. In the world of reindeers, that’s about 15 years longer than the average life span. There have since been a number of “Star” reindeer.

Ora Stewart passed away in 1986 and left Albert Whitehead in charge of Star.

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Kimball’s Dry Goods 500 and 504 West 5th Avenue

Think about this:

Kimball’s is the only commercial building at it’s original location since the founding of Anchorage.

Irving J. Kimball and his wife Della first came to Anchorage during it’s “Tent City” days in 1915.

During the Anchorage townsite auction, held on July 10, 1915, Irving Kimball purchased Lot 1, Block 51 (500 and 504 West Fifth Street) for $500 dollars. He then built Kimball’s Dry Goods.

The store opened in November of 1915 and sold general merchandise, hardware and groceries.

Following the passing of Irving and Della, their daughter, Decema Kimball Andresen Slawson operated the store until her death in 2002.

In the later years, the store sold sewing supplies to the Bush communities by mail order. That service represented about half of the Kimball Dry Goods business at that time.

In all, Kimball’s Dry Goods was in business for 87 years.

Have you ever shopped or visited Kimball’s?

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My sister sent me the Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter a few weeks ago.

And I want to thank you for the connection to my past. I grew up in Anchorage and left for college in 1967. Now, my sister lives in Los Angeles and I live in Israel.

My last visit to Anchorage was for a West high school class reunion over 20 years ago.

So thanks for putting all this together. Shalom.”


Thank you so much for contacting us here at Anchorage Memories Vivien and for sharing at least a little of your story. Our best to you and your sister.

It’s great to hear from people all over the world who are now reading and enjoying Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter.

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Until next time… watch out for that Termination Dust.

Mike & Mary