Anchorage Tent City Memories
Journey back to 1915. Steam ships were bringing thousands to Cook Inlet and the muddy shores of Ship Creek Flats... It was the beginning of Anchorage.
Needing coal for the Pacific Fleet, the Federal Government decided to access the coal fields of the Matanuska Valley in Alaska.
On June 15, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson issued an Executive Order for laying out a new town site on the plateau north of Ship Creek Flats – now known as Government Hill. That area was set aside to house railroad workers.
Martha White Drives the First Spike
April 29, 1915
A railroad would be built from Seward to Fairbanks.
And because Cook Inlet could be dredged to accommodate bigger ships and was a protected boat anchorage, the area was chosen as the Alaska Railroad mid-point.
The goal was to lay 470 miles of railroad track. Martha White, who was born in a cabin just off Cook Inlet, was selected to drive the first railroad spike.
Click on the following link:
Read more about Alaska pioneer Martha White and discover.
May 5, 1915
It was like a gold rush without the gold.
When it was announced that the AEC, Alaska Engineering Commission, was going to hire workers, thousands of people began arriving at Ship Creek Flats. Some where looking for jobs, some for lucrative business opportunities.
Almost overnight, a rugged tent city sprang up among the tree stumps.
Click on the following link:
See how the railroad gave birth to Anchorage and discover.
Shore Access was Difficult
Steam Ships anchored in Cook Inlet and small launches brought passengers to shore on Ship Creek Flats.
It was a muddy mess. Horse and foot traffic slogged their way through mud over corduroy log paths and the few hastily laid out boardwalks.
Overcrowded and Unsanitary.
By June 1915, tent city was dangerously overcrowded and unsanitary.
Harry and Katsuyo Kimura arrived in tent city from Seattle and took over a hand laundry. There was no running water and the clothes that were brought to them to be cleaned were full of lice.
Years later, the Kimura family went on to build Snow-White Laundry and Cleaners and the very popular restaurant, Nikko Garden. Just to name a couple.
But back in 1915, the AEC, Alaska Engineering Commission ordered that by mid-August, all tents had to be moved off Ship Creek Flats and up onto what is now Government Hill and the new town site.
Naming the Town
On August 2, 1915, everyone was invited to vote on a name for the new town.
Some names that were considered included:
Matanuska, Terminal, New Knik, Alaska City, Ship Creek, Gateway, Winalaska, Homestead, Lane (after the Secretary of the Interior), Anchorage and even Brownsville (after early settlers – possibly Nellie Brown).
After the votes were counted -
Alaska City was the top choice, 2nd was Lane and Anchorage came in 3rd.
It was later learned that the U.S. Post Office had already named the new town “Anchorage”.
In Just 2 Years
By 1917, Anchorage had a population of 6 to 7 thousand.
Fast Forward Circa 1980s
Mary of Anchorage Memories at “Tent City”
Anchorage celebrated its tent city days in the 1980s with a new tent city near Ship Creek.
It was a lot of fun as everyone strolled along sawdust-covered paths as they visited the “tents” of local merchants like Peggy’s Café.
Our look at Anchorage Book Cache Memories brought this from Randall.
“I can honestly say the 5th Avenue Book Cache next to Penney’s (was my favorite).
The enormous quantities of books of all genre. It kept me going from the 50s to the 80s. I loved dreaming away the hours. I filled my parents house and my own with over 3,000 volumes and most treasured are those with the Book Cache card.
My heart goes out to the them (owners of the Book Cache) which added to the dreams of many in the 50s through the 80s. What a world they opened up to me.
I’ll never forget the Book Cache.”
We all knew that Anchorage is a special place – and now we know why.
From nothing more than a jumble of crude tents and muddy pathways, these hardy, adventurous pioneers literally forged the beginnings of a town out of the Alaska wilderness that would become an “All American City”.
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Until Next Time
Mike and Mary