Anchorage Alaska Facts

From it's humble beginnings as a rugged tent city, our town grew into modern day Anchorage.

Anchorage Alaska Facts -

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I am so grateful for this Anchorage Memories website" Robert

A look below at Anchorage in 1944 and the picture of tents is from 1914 near the mouth of Ship Creek

Anchorage Alaska Facts

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Anchorage Alaska Facts

It all began at the mouth of Ship Creek

"Tent City, circa 1914

Anchorage Alaska Facts

What Happened in 1914 That Started it All?

The town first began when a railroad construction port was created at the mouth of Ship Creek.

Yes, it all started as a "company town" for the railroad.

Construction took place between 1914 and 1923 and the site was named "Ship Creek Landing". Since there was no place to stay, a very basic city of tents soon began springing up. Can you imagine living in a tent during Alaska winters?

And the world would soon welcome a new town.

How Did Anchorage's Tent City Survive?

From it's humble beginnings at the mouth of Ship Creek, Anchorage has had many firsts along the way.

To begin with, the city of tents that first sprang up, was very hard to maintain. It was a muddy mess and tents had to be moved out of the muck and mire along the creek and up on the side of what is now Government Hill.

Soon the waters of Cook Inlet even became home for lots of off-shore businesses including lumber, hardware and other supplies. Yep, instead of getting in your car to go shopping, you got in a boat and headed out into the inlet for the nearest barge.

Mary J Dougherty of Anchorage Memories

at the Tent City celebration, circa 1990

Chamber of Commerce Tent City

Remembering "Tent City"

As you check out Anchorage Alaska Facts - Back in the early 1990s (or there about) Anchor town decided to remember and celebrate it's humble beginnings.

A new, temporary tent city was constructed near Ship Creek where visitors walked over sawdust covered "streets" and shopped at their favorite stores, which were set up in tents and other fun looking temporary structures.

The new tent city was a far cry from the crude original town back in 1914, but it was a fun "tip of the hat" to those early pioneers that gave our town it's start.

Visitors to this new "Tent City" enjoyed their day and imagined what it might have been like for those brave souls who helped carve out what would become the modern city of Anchorage, Alaska.

Where Did Anchorage Get it's Name?

After first calling it - "Ship Creek", (an obvious choice, given it's location) the founding fathers later decided to rename it "Alaska City."

Another name that was considered was "Lane" after Secretary of the Interior, Franklin D. Lane. "Matanuska" was considered as well.

Then the U.S. Post Office made the final choice of "Anchorage" - although some say it was named after a hardwood store that was operating out of a boat anchored just off shore in Cook Inlet near the tent city.

Anyway, "Anchorage" it was.

How Many People Live in Anchorage?

First, we have to put this in perspective -

While Texas used to be the biggest state in the U.S., Alaska is bigger than Texas, California and Montana all put together. Now that's big.

And when it comes to population, Anchorage is home to about 44 percent of all the people living in Alaska.

That translated to an Anchorage population of 294, 356 people in 2017 - or about the same population that you'd find in the state of Delaware.

Anchorage Alaska Facts

You'll Love These

How Cold Does it Get in Anchorage?

Anchorage Alaska Facts would not be complete unless temperatures are talked about.

The average low in Anchor town is 30.3 degrees.

But way back in February of 1947, temperatures plunged to a minus 38 degrees. That's right, 38 below. And yes, that's cold, even by Anchorage standards.

Winter Sunset

City skyline in winter

How Much Daylight Do You Get in Summer and Winter?

How many times have people from Anchorage been asked by folks in the "lower 49" about whether is dark all the time in the winter, or light all the time in the summer way up there in Anchor town?

Here's "an answer"

Winter Solstice

During the shortest day in the winter (winter Solstice) the sun doesn't come up until 10:15 am, or there bouts. And it sets at around 3:30pm. That means Anchorage only sees the sun for a little over 6 hours on the shortest day of the year.

March 19th to September 23rd

Alaska's largest city actually enjoys more daylight hours than anyplace in the "lower 49" (the rest of the United States) with more than 19 hours of daylight during summer Solstice (the longest day of the year). And celebrations on that day in Anchorage bring late night baseball games and golf T-times as late as 10:00pm.

Empress Movie Theater on 4th Avenue

Built by Cap Lathrop and opened July 1916. A Kimball organ was added in 1917

Empress Theater

What was the First Movie Theater in Anchorage?

Much has been written about the 4th Avenue theater in downtown Anchorage, but it wasn't the first movie theater in Anchor town.

Anchorage Alaska Facts uncovered this -

Way back in 1916,  Captain (Cap) Austin E. Lathrop opened the Empress movie theater on 4th avenue, just down the street from where the 4th Avenue theater would eventually be constructed.

The Lathrop movie empire included the production of at least one movie, "The Chechakos", shot in 1924 on location in Denali Park and Girdwood, Alaska. The Chechakos was of course a silent movie and is still shown in Anchorage at special screenings from time-to-time.

U.S. President Warren G. Harding

President Warren G. Harding

Who was the First U.S. President to Visit?

Interesting Anchorage Alaska Facts include this one about the first president of the United States to visit our town. It was our 29th President.

Warren G. Harding visited our fair city back in 1923.

And speaking of Presidential visits. Anchorage Memories own Mike Dougherty was honored to participate as a television camera operator in what was another historic meeting. Check out this video about when Elmendorf Air Force Base hosted the meeting of U.S. President Nixon meeting Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

Anchorage Alaska Facts

The First Mayor

Leopold David

Who was the First Mayor?

As far as Anchorage Alaska Facts, this one is not commonly known.

Serving from November 29, 1920 to 1923, the first Mayor was Leopold David.

Our town must have been very different way back then and many new mayors have come and gone along the way.

John J. Stringis

John J. Stringis

Who was the First Chief of Police?

Some facts are long forgotten by most people. Here's one.

Anchor Town has always been a place where "rugged individuals" come to explore Alaska. With that in mind, "keeping the peace" has always been an adventure for Law Enforcement.

Back in 1921, Anchorage elected it's first Chief of Police, Mr. John J. Stringis.

Joe Spenard and his "City Express"

Early days of Spenard. City Express service

Who was Joe Spenard?

He first came to Alaska in 1910 from Ottawa, Canada.

By 1916 he made his way to our town. Joe is credited with bringing the first automobile to Anchorage. He also began a hauling business called "City Express." His slogan was "Time and tide will not wait, but City Express is never late."

Joe Spenard also built a logging road from Anchorage to "Jeter Lake". The logging road became known as "Spenard Road" and the lake became "Spenard Lake."

Today, Spenard is one of the more colorful suburbs of Anchor Town.

How Many of These Facts do You Know?

Our First Hockey Team

Anchorage's first hockey team, 1935

When did Anchorage get it's First Hockey Team?

Anchorage Alaska Facts dug this one up for all you Hockey fans.

In 1935.

The outdoor rink's advertisers included The Frisco Cafe, Elkmann's Furniture and Piggly Wiggly Market.

Both Elkmanns and Piggly Wiggly were located in the Anchorage Commercial building at 4th avenue and H street.

The First Grocery Store Chain

Look at the Piggly Wiggly store in the lower right of the picture below

Piggly Wiggly grocery store

What was Anchorage's First Grocery Store Chain?

If you're an Anchorage Alaska Facts checker, here's one - Today, with so many grocery stores where you can easily shop, do you know what grocery chain was first in town? You may have shopped in one, and they're still around in many places in the United States.

The first chain grocery store in our fair city was the Piggly Wiggly Market which opened in 1947 at 4th and H street in the Anchorage Commercial Company building.

The "Park Strip"

Delaney Park opened as Anchorage's first air strip in the summer of 1924

Anchorage's first air strip

Did You Know this About the Park Strip?

"Delaney Park" was originally Anchorage's first landing strip for airplanes.

It was later replaced by Merrill Field.

For many, growing up in our town includes fun memories of summers playing in the Park Strip's kiddy wading pool, exploring the train engine, or going to the park strip to enjoy a day at a visiting circus.

Merrill Field Tower

Opening in 1930, Merrill Field was the only air strip in Anchorage for 21 years

Merrill Field Tower

What Year Was Merrill Field Established?

Named after Alaska aviation pioneer, Russel Merrill, our famed Merrill Field was established on the eastern end of 5th avenue.

The airfield was opened for business in 1930. And for the next 21 years, Merrill Field was the only airport in Anchorage, bringing people and much needed supplies to town.

When the parents of Anchorage website owner Michael R (Mike) Dougherty first came to town in 1949, they landed at Merrill Field and their first impression of Alaska happened when they stood in the airplane's doorway, ready to walk down the stairway and on-to Merrill Field.

Check out Mike's Mother's first impression of what she saw.

She called it My Beautiful Alaska and wrote this post.

As an interesting side note, the very first Aviation Beacon in what was then, the Territory of Alaska, was located at Merrill Field.

Anchorage Alaska Facts

"Air Crossroads of the World"

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport

When did Anchorage International Airport First Open?

Now Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (renamed after Alaska Senator Ted Stevens), it first opened on December 10th in 1951.

Our new airport replaced Merrill Field and soon became known as the "Air Crossroads of the World".

Merrill field remains in service for small aircraft to this day.

Elmendorf Air Force Base

Elmendorf Air Force Base

When Were Elmendorf and Fort Richardson Built?

World War II had a lot to do with both Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Fort Richardson Army Base being built.  Both were constructed in the 1940s.

For kids attending school in Anchorage, having friends who had a parent in the military meant that when the military rotated your friends parents to their next assignment, you had to say goodbye to your friends.

During World War II, my father, Ray Dougherty, was in the Army and landed at the base on his way to the Aleutian Islands with an anti-aircraft gun crew. Dad was so impressed with what he saw, that in 1950, he moved our family from California to Anchor Town, where we lived for many years.

Because of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson Army Base, Anchorage is also the location of the headquarters of the Alaska Defense Command.

Today, both bases are now known as Joint Base Elmendorf - Richardson.

Anchorage, Alaska Circa 1950

4th Avenue - notice the 4th Avenue Theater sign in the center of the picture

Anchorage 1953

What was Anchorage's Population in the 1940s to About 1951?

It all began in 1914, but by the 1940s to around 1951, the population had grown from about 3,000 to around 47,000.

And because the population responds to "boom or bust" situations like the oil pipeline days, citizens of our town have been through many population changes - both up and down.

Check out the History of Anchorage Alaska right now

Modern City Skyline

Modern Anchor Town

When and Where was the First Traffic Light Installed?

Anchorage Alaska Facts uncovered this -

If you could name one street in town that citizens think of as the most downtown street, it would likely be 4th Avenue.

Back in 1951, 4th Avenue became the home of Anchorage's very first traffic light.

Today, it's a modern city with many more streets and lots and lots of traffic lights.

Anchorage Alaska Facts

Fur Rendezvous 1950

Grant Fritz in the Anchorage High School Rendezvous race on 4th Avenue in 1950

Fur Rendezvous, Anchorage Alaska

What is Now the Biggest Winter Carnival in the World?

From it's beginnings as a small gathering in 1935, when homesteaders and trappers came into town for a few days of fun after a long Alaska winter, the Fur Rendezvous is now, officially the world's largest Winter Carnival.

Visitors from all over the world, now come to our town for this grand celebration.

McDonald's on the Corner of Northern Lights and Arctic

McDonald's restaurant

What and Where was the First Fast Food Restaurant
in Anchorage?

McDonalds was the first fast food restaurant to open.

It opened on July 1970 on the corner Northern Lights and Arctic to a very excited crowd.

Modern Seward Highway

Seward Highway, Alaska

When was the Seward Highway Completed?

The Seward Highway was completed in 1951 and begins in Anchorage.

My father, Ray Dougherty, was a heavy equipment operator on the section of the road from Anchorage to Girdwood. It was his first job in Alaska.

The Seward Highway runs 125 miles from Anchor Town to Seward through beautiful forests, and along mountains and waterfalls.

Alaska was purchased from Russia for 7.2 million dollars. The purchase was negotiated and signed by Secretary of State William Seward. This popular Alaska highway is his name sake.

Statehood Commemorative Stamp

Alaska statehood commemorative stamp

When did Alaska Become a State and What State Number is it?

On January 3, 1959, Alaska became the 49th state.

Since I was only 3 years old when we first moved to Alaska, it was still a territory, I became upset when we were visiting family in Texas and I was told Alaska wasn't a state (it was still a territory at the time).

I couldn't understand why my parents would move us "outside" the United States.

But when statehood did come to Alaska, it also brought a sudden increase in population. So much so that it caused what was described as a "severe" housing shortage.

To celebrate it's new found statehood, residents put together a huge celebration, including a large bonfire - attended by Mary J Dougherty (author of this Anchorage Memories website).

Good Friday Earthquake, March 27, 1964

Downtown Anchorage 1964 earthquake

What Year was the Biggest Earthquake
in Alaska, and North America?

Anchorage Alaska Facts include a look at the biggest earthquake to ever hit Alaska.

It was on Good Friday, March 27, 1964.

The quake measured 9.2 on the Richter earthquake scale and shook for 5 minutes.

When it was finally over, the destruction was unimaginable.

You can see pictures, video and read first hand accounts from the survivors right here on Anchorage Memories.

To see more, check out Great Alaskan Earthquake right now.

Anchorage Alaska Facts wouldn't be complete without a look back at Anchorage radio and television history -

KFQD Radio

First radio station in all of Alaska

What was the First Radio Station?

KFQD wasn't just the first radio station in Anchorage - it was the first radio station in Alaska.

Back on May 17, 1924, KFQD radio signed on the air.

And while that was a bunch of years ago, KFQD radio is still broadcasting to this day.

Past KFQD radio personalities include Herb Shaindlin, Marcus in the Morning and Ron Moore as well as many others.

KTVA Channel 11

McKinley Building was home to Anchorage's first TV station

What was the First Television Station?

Do you enjoy fun Anchorage Alaska Facts?

Take a look at the picture above, of this iconic building on famed 4th Avenue.

The building was known as the McKinley building before the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake. On top of the building is the broadcast tower of KTVA channel 11, Anchorage's first television station.

Started by Augie Hiebert, KTVA first began broadcasting on December 11, 1953 and broadcast from 2:00pm to 11:30pm from the first floor of the McKinley building (now the McKinley Tower Apartments at 337 E. 4th Avenue).

Would You Like to Learn More Anchorage Alaska Facts?

What year did you first arrive in "Anchor town?"

The largest city in Alaska has a colorful history and more than it's share of colorful characters like Joe Spenard and many others who came to this last frontier to build a life for themselves.

Like to discover more?

You can learn all kinds of fun Anchorage Alaska facts by visiting the Anchorage Museum right now.

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