As the world around us rapidly grows and changes, the historic Westmark Baranof Hotel, located in downtown Juneau, continues to stand the test of time. For the past 75 years, the landmark hotel has amassed many happy memories as well as a unique history. Much has changed in Alaska’s capital city since the bygone era of the late 1930s, but the Westmark Baranof Hotel serves as a reminder of the exciting and fascinating times that were pre-statehood Juneau.
Constructed in 1939, the hotel’s first owner was Dr. Walter Wooten Council, along with his business partner. Shortly after the hotel was built, Dr. Council and his wife welcomed a daughter, Carol Ann. The Councils lived in the Baranof Hotel penthouse for more than 20 years, with the hotel grounds serving as a playground for Carol Ann. Every year she would trick-or-treat down the halls, and her mother even maintained a vegetable garden on the hotel roof.
Around this time, the top few floors were maintained as executive apartments for the town officials, doctors and lawyers. The Baranof Hotel wasn’t just a hotel, it was a true gathering place for the local community. Adding to the hotel’s close ties with Juneau history, Dr. Council delivered the children of one of Alaska’s most prolific artists, Eustace Paul Ziegler, and was paid in paintings that are still prominently displayed in the hotel lobby.
In its early years, the hotel stood only six stories tall. Today, at nine stories, the hotel proudly upholds the community feel that was characteristic of the property in the early 1940s. Having survived a fire in the 1980s, the hotel still boasts art-deco style public areas that warmly welcome guests, along with original artwork that adorns the lobby walls.
No visit to Juneau is complete without a trip to the Westmark Baranof Hotel — stop by to see this historic landmark and celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2014! While you’re there, be sure to say hello to General Manager Steve Hamilton, who has had many conversations of his own with Dr. Council’s daughter, Carol Ann.