Posted in About Alaska, Westmark Blog

Image used under Flickr Creative Commons license from paxsonwoelber.

Happy 100th Birthday, Anchorage!

If you were to visit Anchorage, Alaska, 100 years ago, you might not recognize it. In its infancy, Anchorage was a railroad construction town that could be accurately described as a tent city. Flash forward to today, Anchorage boasts a population of roughly 300,000 and encompasses an area the size of Delaware as it celebrates its 100th birthday in the new year. The city has come a long way, and 2015 will be a year to celebrate the strides it has made while looking at what’s to come in the next 100 years. If you’re visiting Anchorage in 2015, don’t miss out on a chance to take part in the centennial festivities and hear some of the incredible stories that make up the rich history of Alaska’s biggest city.

The official centennial website is filled with fun resources, including a section where longtime residents share their reasons for living in Anchorage along with their favorite memories – many from upwards of 50 years ago. Another great feature is the then-and-now photo collection, where photos of Anchorage landmarks taken 100 years apart are paired side by side to show how much has changed since the birth of Alaska’s biggest city.

Although the landscape has changed immensely in 100 years, there are still little pockets of history around town. Only a small number of original Anchorage buildings remain standing, in part due to the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake that significantly changed the layout of the city. To see some preserved history, take a tour of the Oscar Anderson House Museum, one of the oldest houses in town built in 1915. It was actually the first wood-framed house in Anchorage, commissioned as a family home by Oscar Anderson, a Swedish immigrant who claimed to be the 18th person to arrive at the Anchorage town site. It’s been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978 and is open for guided and self-tours between June and August each year.

If you happen to already be in Anchorage this winter, there’s some early centennial fun to be had. The Light Brigade, a group of local artists, had some bright ideas for how to honor the upcoming celebration. Using recycled Christmas decorations, the group built huge, interactive light sculptures and installed them at Elderberry Park, a popular downtown spot along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. The lights in the sculptures are motion sensitive and behave differently depending on how fast onlookers are moving. Best of all, it’s just a short walk from our downtown Anchorage property! This semi-permanent installation will be on display through January 10, so don’t miss out.

From tent city to bustling metropolis, Anchorage has seen a lot throughout the past 100 years. An entire century is no small milestone, and you can be sure that the festivities in 2015 will shine a light on the incredible history of this historic city.