Facts About Anchorage Alaska

These interesting Facts About Anchorage Alaska take you from our town's humble beginnings as a rugged tent city, to our town in today's world.

facts about anchorage alaska

It all began

at the mouth of Ship Creek

Anchorage tent city 1914.Tent City 1914-1915

What Happened in 1914

That Started it All?

The town began with the creation of a railroad construction port at the mouth of Ship Creek.

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

Construction took place between 1914 and 1923 at what was called, “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 Tent City


From its 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 many offshore 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.


Meet the Kimuras, a pioneer family that came to our town when it was still a tent city and went on to build one of Anchorage's most loved restaurants.

Check out Anchorage Pioneers right now.

Mary J Dougherty

of Anchorage Memories

at the Tent City celebration

Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Tent City 1990.A fun day to remember the early pioneers

As you check out these Facts About Anchorage Alaska – 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 created 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 its 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”.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I am so grateful for this

Anchorage Memories website” Robert

When was Anchorage


On November 23, 1970, our town was incorporated.

How Many People?

First, put these Facts About Anchorage Alaska 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.

It's Tax-Friendly

According to Kiplinger magazine, Anchorage is the most tax-friendly city in the U.S.A.

Facts About Anchorage Alaska

You'll Love These

How Cold Does it Get?

The average low in Anchor town is 30.3 degrees.

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


What's The Temperature Right Now?

Winter Sunset

Winter sunset.Short, cold days mark Anchorage winters

How Much Daylight

in Summer and Winter?

And while we're looking at these Facts About Anchorage Alaska.

How many times you have been asked by folks in the “lower 49” about whether it's dark all the time in the winter, or light all the time in the summer way up there?

Here's “an answer”

Winter Solstice

During the shortest day in the winter (winter Solstice) the sun doesn't come up until around 10:15 am. And it sets at around 3:30pm. That means the sun only shines 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 include late night baseball games and golf T-times as late as 10:00pm.

What was the First

Movie Theater in Anchorage?

Empress Theater Anchorage, Alaska.Empress Theatre showed movies until the 1950s

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

Facts About Anchorage Alaska Facts include this gem.

Way back in 1916, Captain (Cap) Austin E. Lathrop opened the Empress Movie Theater on 4th avenue. It was the first movie theatre in Anchorage, and it was located just down the street from where the 4th Avenue theater would eventually be constructed.

A Kimball organ was added in 1917 to accompany the silent movies.

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.


Your Favorite

Movie Theaters

You'll love this look at a past edition of

Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter

Who was the First

U.S. President to Visit?

President Warren G. Harding.He was the first

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

Warren G. Harding visited our fair city back in 1923. He also became the first U.S. President to visit Spenard Lake.

Facts About Anchorage Alaska

Who was

the First Mayor?

Leopold David and familyHe was the first Mayor

The first Mayor was Leopold David, serving from November 29, 1920, to 1923.

Our town must have been unique back then with many new mayors along the way.

No Lawman Until 1921

John J. SturgusJohn J. Sturgus

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 its first Chief of Police, Mr. John J. Sturgus. He was a one-person police department.

Joe Spenard

and his "City Express"

City Express service in early Anchorage.A colorful early pioneer is the namesake of Spenard

Who was

Joe Spenard?

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

By 1916 he made his way to our town. Joe brought 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 in Anchor Town.


Learn More About

Joe Spenard

You'll love this look at a past edition of

Anchorage Memories VIP Newsletter

How Many

of These Facts

do You Know?

Our Town's First

Hockey Team

First hockey team in Anchorage, 1935The beginning of a favorite sport in Anchorage

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

When did Anchorage get it's first hockey team?


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

Piggly Wiggly grocery store.A local grocery favorite

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. Look in the lower right of the picture above.

The "Park Strip"

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

First air strip in Anchorage.They even had a golf course on the Park Strip

Did You Know this

About the Park Strip?

“Delaney Park” was originally Anchor town'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

Merrill Field Tower in AnchorageVery busy during World War II

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.

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 Memories.com website owner Michael R (Mike) Dougherty first came to town in 1949, they landed at Merrill Field. 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.

Read this ladies first impression

of what she saw

when we landed at Merrill Field in 1950


The very first Aviation Beacon in what was then, the Territory of Alaska, was located at Merrill Field.

Facts About Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage International Airport


Ted Stevens Anchorage

International Airport

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.Air Crossroads of the World

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.

It is now the 3rd busiest cargo airport in the world.

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.A proud Alaskan tradition

When were Elmendorf

and Fort Richardson Built?

World War II had a lot to do with the building of both Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Fort Richardson Army Base.  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 liked with what he saw, and 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.

In 2005, both bases joined to form Joint Base Elmendorf – Richardson.

Anchorage, Alaska

Circa 1953

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

Anchorage 1953A street filled with memories

What was Our

in the

1940s to About 1951?

Did you know these Facts About Anchorage Alaska?

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.

Now I want to read the History of Anchorage Alaska right now.

Modern City Skyline

Modern Anchor TownFrom a tent city to a modern city

When and Where

was the First

Traffic Light Installed?

Facts About Anchorage Alaska include 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 the very first traffic light.

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

The Most

Diverse Community

According to the 2010 census, Anchorage's Mountain View community is the most diverse community in the United States.

Let's Ski to Work

There are 105 miles of groomed cross country ski trails for residents to enjoy in the winter time.

In summer, they become welcome walking and jogging trails.

Now That's

a Lot of Freight

Port of AnchorageThe very busy Port of Anchorage

Where Do You

Send Freight to Alaska?

Along with all of our Facts About Anchorage Alaska, we came across this one.

Our town's port receives 95% of all the freight coming into Alaska.

No Snakes

There are no snakes that are native to Anchor town or Alaska.

Watch Out for


Alaska grizzly bear"Hey, I'm not a tourist, I'm a local"

What Alaska Wildlife

can you see

right in town?

Take a look at these Facts About Anchorage Alaska.

Around 250 black bear and 60 grizzly bears live right within the city limits. Not to mention the many moose who call the area home.

There are also wolves, beavers, and foxes within the city limits.

Catching Salmon

in Town

Ship Creek salmonA great place to catch a big one

How's the Fishing?

In the summer, you can fish for Silver Salmon and King Salmon in Ship Creek, located in a small valley between downtown and Government Hill.

That area of Ship Creek is also where the town began and where the original “tent City” stood back in 1914.

Facts About Anchorage Alaska

The Best

Drinking Water

It's official… The American Water Works tells us that Anchorage enjoys some of the best tasting drinking water in America. And that's a fact.

Surrounded by Glaciers

Portage GlacierOne of the good things about Alaska

Photo by Zdenek Svoboda

Where Can You

See Glaciers?

Are you ready for some Glacier viewing?

Within just 50 miles of town, there are 60 glaciers.

What do Anchorage

and Honolulu

have in Common?

Waikiki beachA fun place to take a winter break

Our town is nearly as far west as the sun baked, ocean breeze kissed city of Honolulu, Hawaii.

What is Now the

Biggest Winter Carnival

in the World?

Fur Rendezvous, Anchorage AlaskaHow many businesses do you recognize?

in the picture above

Grant Fritz in the Anchorage High School Rendezvous race

on 4th Avenue in 1950

Have a look at these Facts About Anchorage Alaska.

From its 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.


Fur Rendezvous Stories

Check out these memories about Rondy fun

What and Where

was the First

Fast Food Restaurant

in Anchorage?

McDonald's restaurantYes, Anchorage also has them

McDonald's was the first fast food restaurant in our town.

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

Modern Seward Highway

Seward Highway, AlaskaA wonderful and beautiful Alaska drive through Southcentral

When was the

Seward Highway Completed?

Completed in 1951, The Seward Highway begins in Anchorage.

My father, Ray Dougherty, was a heavy equipment operator on the section of the road from Anchor town 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 namesake.

How Many Mountain Ranges

Can You See?

Chugach mountain rangeThe majestic Chugach mountains

Photo by Frank K

From Anchorage, you can see 6 mountain ranges.

The Chugach (pictured above), Talkeetna, Tordrillo, Kenai, Alaska and the Aleutian ranges.

On clear days, residents can see Mount Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.

Where is the World's

Busiest Seaplane Base?

Lake HoodHave you ever flown from Lake Hood?

Photo by N727RH

Anchorage Alaska Facts include this one.

Just about 3 miles from downtown, you'll discover Lake Hood. It has an average of 190 small aircraft flights in and out each day.

In the summer, planes take off and land on the lake using “pontoons”. In the winter they use snow skis.


Commemorative Stamp

Alaska statehood commemorative stampRemembering

When did Alaska

Become a State

What State Number is it?

Important Facts About Anchorage Alaska include this one.

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

I was only 3 years old when we first moved to Alaska. It was still a territory, and 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 considerable celebration, including a large bonfire – attended by Mary J Dougherty (author of this Anchorage Memories website).

What Year

was the Biggest Earthquake

in Alaska

and North America?

Downtown Anchorage 1964 earthquakeAn incredible display of the power of nature

Facts About Anchorage Alaska 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 the shaking 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.

You can read about the Great Alaskan Earthquake right now.

Facts About Anchorage Alaska wouldn't be complete

without a look back at 

Local Radio and Television

What was

the First Radio Station?

KFQD radioAn early radio pioneer

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 today.

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

What was

the First Television Station?

McKinley BuildingThe McKinley Building

Do you enjoy fun Facts About Anchorage Alaska?

Take a look at the picture above, of this iconic McKinley building (the building's first name) on famed 4th Avenue.

On top of the building is the broadcast tower of KTVA channel 11, Anchorage's first television station.

Started by Augie Hiebert, KTVA 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).

What was the First

Color TV Show

seen in Anchorage?

That Girl TV seriesDid you tune in to watch this?

On September 19, 1966, KENI-TV channel 2 (now KTUU) broadcast the first color TV show to Anchor town audiences.

The show was an episode of the ABC Television Network's popular sitcom, “That Girl” starring Marlo Thomas in an episode titled “Don't Just Do Something. Stand There!”

Would You Like to

Learn More

Facts About Anchorage Alaska?

What year did you first arrive in “Anchor town?”

The largest city in Alaska has a colorful history and more than its 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 more Anchorage Alaska facts by visiting Anchorage Museum right now.

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