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A Quick Tour of Anchorage History

Anchorage got its start in 1915, and the city is an eclectic mix of old and new.

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1. Visit Anchorage Log Cabin Information Center

The sod-roofed landmark has been there since 1954 and its staff can answer any of your questions about what to do in Anchorage. A 5,114-pound jade boulder sits outside the front door, donated by Ivan and Oro Stewart of the camera shop across the street. Stop here for walking tour maps.

2. Alaska Statehood Monument

A bust of President Dwight Eisenhower graces the memorial, which commemorates Alaska’s 1959 admission into the United States. From the overlook, you can see the Port of Anchorage and the Alaska Railroad, where the city got its start as a railroad construction camp in 1915.

3. Wendler Building

Downtown’s only turreted building was one of Anchorage’s original buildings and located where the Hotel Captain Cook now stands. Its upper floor was Anchorage’s first women-only club, later turned into the “Club 25” restaurant. Today it’s the headquarters of the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, with the starting line for that race and the Iditarod just outside the building near a dog statue.

4. Kimball Building

One of Anchorage’s first commercial buildings, the Kimball family built it in 1915 after paying a whopping $500 for the land. Originally a dry goods store, today it houses a coffee shop and gift store.

5. 4th Avenue Theatre

This grand art deco theatre was opened in 1947 by Cap Lathrop, a 20th-century media mogul who wanted to establish Alaska as the Hollywood of the north. Once outfitted with elaborate murals and velvet curtains, the building has been used in recent motion picture scenes and is awaiting a renovation.

6. Anchor Pub/Empress Theater

Before Cap Lathrop crowned his career with the grand 4th Avenue Theatre, he constructed a chain of theaters in Cordova, Fairbanks and Anchorage, each named the “Empress.” Visit the Anchor Pub today on Fourth Avenue, and you can still see the balcony and the slight slope of the floor.

7. Old federal building

Construction of the Depression-era building on Fourth Avenue, with its 1930s-Modern architectural style, showed the federal government was in Alaska to stay. The original federal district courtroom is still open for viewing and judges still reside here – hence the security checkpoint – while the rest of the main floor houses the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. The building was originally designed to be square with an interior courtyard but quickly outgrew its original design.

8. Oscar Anderson House

Oscar Anderson was a butcher with a shop on Fourth Avenue now occupied by Stewart’s Photo. Anderson’s home was the first home constructed in Anchorage, just a few feet from where it now stands in Elderberry Park down the hill from L Street on Fifth Avenue. The home and its belongings have been preserved, including a player piano, kitchen wood stove and metal ice skates.

9. Alaska Center for the Performing Arts

Completed in 1988, it’s considered the premier performance venue in Alaska with four theatres of varying sizes, capped by Atwood Hall. Pieces commissioned by the city’s 1% for Art program are found throughout the building, including the carpet and the energetic lighting on the building’s façade. An auditorium at the site named for famed Alaska painter Sydney Laurence was torn down to make way for the PAC, but the fly system – the rigging that lifts and lowers sets and curtains – was incorporated into the new building and allegedly includes a ghostly “Syd.”

10. Resolution Park

On L Street between Third and Fourth avenues, a bronze statue of Captain Cook overlooks his namesake inlet that he explored in 1778 aboard the HMS Resolution.