Article Summary: Historic Sites In Alaska
Historic Sites In Alaska. More Than Just Parks has 10 incredible must-see sites for you to visit.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the 10 Historic Sites In Alaska that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks. It also includes sites not managed by the National Park Service. After all, we’re more than just parks!
If you’re planning a trip to the Last Frontier then I recommend picking up: The Ultimate Travel Guide To Alaska for 2022, 2023, and Beyond: A Guidebook to this Beautiful State – Explore Juneau, Anchorage, Famous Hiking Trails, Amazing Wildlife, and more by Andrew Hitchens.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Table Of Contents: Historic Sites In Alaska
Historic Sites In Alaska
- Top 10 Historic Sites In Alaska
- Top 5 Historic Sites In Alaska
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Top 10 Historic Sites In Alaska
10. Crow Creek Mine
Alaska is famous for the Iditarod, gold mining, sourdough, the Alaska Railroad, aviation, Alaska Native heritage, homesteading, world-class fishing and seafood, outdoor adventures, fresh air, and a slower, more self-sufficient way of life.
The state also features some amazing historic sites. More Than Just Parks is excited to share our list of the Top 10 Historic Sites In Alaska with you. And we’re kicking off our list at #10 with the Crow Creek Mine.
The Crow Creek Mine is a historic gold mine located in the Chugach Mountains near Girdwood, Alaska. The mine was originally discovered in 1896 during the Klondike Gold Rush, which brought thousands of prospectors to the region in search of gold.
The mine was initially operated by a group of prospectors who formed the Crow Creek Mining Company. The company quickly realized that the gold deposits at the mine were extensive and began large-scale operations.
By the early 20th century, the mine had become one of the most productive in the region, producing over 700,000 ounces of gold during its lifetime.
The miners who worked at the Crow Creek Mine faced many challenges, including harsh weather conditions, dangerous working conditions, and difficult terrain. Despite these challenges, the mine continued to operate until the mid-20th century when it was eventually abandoned.
In the 1960s, a group of local residents formed the Crow Creek Mine Historical Society with the goal of preserving the mine as a historic site. The society acquired the property and began restoring the mine’s buildings and equipment.
Today, the Crow Creek Mine is a popular tourist destination where visitors can tour the historic mine and learn about the lives of the miners who worked there.
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9. Oscar Anderson House Museum
At #9 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Alaska is a house which has quite a story to tell. It’s the Oscar Anderson House Museum.
The Oscar Anderson House Museum is a historic house located in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. It was built in 1915 by Oscar Anderson, a Swedish immigrant who was one of the first permanent residents of Anchorage.
Anderson built the house after he purchased a large parcel of land in what was then a small frontier town. He worked as a carpenter and contractor, helping to build many of the early structures in Anchorage. The house was one of the first wooden structures to be built in the town, and it quickly became a landmark in the area.
Over the years, the Anderson house served many purposes. It was used as a boarding house, a schoolhouse, and even a hospital during the 1918 influenza epidemic. Anderson continued to live in the house until his death in 1974, after which it was sold to the city of Anchorage.
In 1978, the house was restored and opened as a museum, showcasing the life and times of early Anchorage. The museum features many of the original furnishings and artifacts used by the Anderson family, including photographs, clothing, and household items.
Visitors can also learn about the history of the town and the challenges faced by its early settlers.
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8. Fort Abercrombie
If you love military history then you’ll enjoy our next historic site. At #8 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Alaska is Fort Abercrombie.
Fort Abercrombie is a historic military installation located on Kodiak Island, Alaska. It was originally built in 1941 by the United States Army as a defensive measure during World War II.
The fort was named after Union Army General John Abercrombie and was strategically located on the northern tip of Kodiak Island, overlooking the entrance to Kodiak Harbor. The fort consisted of a series of gun emplacements, barracks, and support buildings, and it was manned by a detachment of soldiers who were responsible for defending the area against possible attacks by the Japanese.
During World War II, the fort played an important role in the defense of Alaska. It was one of several forts and installations that were built along the coast to protect the territory from invasion. Although the fort never saw any major action, it played a critical role in the overall defense of the region and helped to ensure that Alaska remained free from enemy occupation during the war.
After the war, the fort was decommissioned and turned over to the state of Alaska. It was subsequently designated as a state park and was opened to the public as a historic site.
Today, visitors can tour the fort and explore its many buildings and artifacts, including a number of guns and other military equipment that were used during the war.
7. George C. Thompson Historic Library
As someone who loves to read, this next Alaska Historic Site is a favorite of mine. The George C. Thompson Historic Library located in Anchorage, Alaska, is known for its unique architecture and rich history.
It serves as a hub of cultural and intellectual activity in the community. And it’s #7 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Alaska.
The library was built in the early 20th century and is designed in the Beaux Arts style, with ornate details and elegant finishes. It houses a diverse collection of books, manuscripts, and other materials that are relevant to the history and culture of Anchorage and Alaska.
The library offers a range of programs and events, including lectures, exhibits, and workshops, as well as opportunities for research and study.
It is a popular destination for history and cultural enthusiasts, as well as students, researchers, and lifelong learners.
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6. Sitka Spruce Park
At #6 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Alaska is a place which celebrates the magnificent Sitka Spruce trees.
Sitka Spruce Park is a public park located in Sitka, Alaska, and it is named after the Sitka Spruce trees that are prevalent in the area. The park is a popular tourist attraction and is known for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.
Here’s a brief overview of the history of Sitka Spruce Park:
In 1890, the park was established as a part of the Sitka National Forest Reserve. At that time, it was known as the “Sitka National Forest Park” and was primarily used for scientific research and educational purposes.
The Park Underwent Significant Changes
In the early 1900s, the park underwent some significant changes. The Sitka Spruce was becoming increasingly popular as a timber source, and logging operations began in the surrounding areas. To protect the remaining Sitka Spruce trees, the park was expanded and given its current name, “Sitka Spruce Park.”
During World War II, the park played a significant role in the war effort. Sitka Spruce trees were used to build military aircraft, and the park was one of the primary sources of Sitka Spruce lumber. Today, a monument in the park commemorates the role that Sitka Spruce played in the war.
In the years following the war, the park continued to be used for scientific research and educational purposes. In 1967, the park was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its important role in the history of the Sitka Spruce.
Today, Sitka Spruce Park remains an important part of Sitka’s cultural and natural heritage. The park offers visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of the area and learn about the history of the Sitka Spruce. It is a popular destination for hikers, birdwatchers, and anyone who appreciates the beauty of the great outdoors.
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Top 5 Historic Sites In Alaska
5. SS Nenena
We’re on to our Top 5 Historic Sites In Alaska. At #5 is a historic steamship that operated on the Yukon River and its tributaries in Alaska. It’s the SS Nenana.
Here’s a brief overview of its history:
The SS Nenana was built in 1933 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, by the British Yukon Navigation Company. It was commissioned by the Alaska Railroad to provide transportation and freight services on the Yukon River and its tributaries.
The ship was 237 feet long and had a capacity of 300 passengers and 300 tons of cargo. It was powered by two steam engines and could reach speeds of up to 14 miles per hour.
The SS Nenana Was An Essential Part Of The Transportation Infrastructure
For over 20 years, the SS Nenana operated as an essential part of the transportation infrastructure in Alaska. It provided a vital link between remote communities along the Yukon River and the rest of the world, carrying everything from mail and supplies to passengers and livestock.
In the 1950s, with the construction of new roads and the increasing use of airplanes for transportation, the SS Nenana’s importance declined. It was decommissioned in 1954 and eventually sold to a private owner.
In 1963, the SS Nenana was donated to the City of Fairbanks and moved to Pioneer Park, where it became a popular tourist attraction. The ship was restored and opened to the public as a museum, showcasing the history of transportation and commerce in Alaska.
Today, the SS Nenana is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and remains an important part of Alaska’s cultural heritage. It serves as a reminder of the crucial role that transportation played in the development of the state and the resilience of the people who lived and worked along the Yukon River.
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4. Kennicott Mine & Ghost Town
We’re on to the “Final Four.” At #4 is a combination mine and ghost town. Welcome to Kennicott Mine & Ghost Town.
The Kennicott Mine and Ghost Town are located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska.
Here is a brief history of the site:
In 1900, a prospector named Jack Smith discovered a rich vein of copper ore near Kennicott Glacier in what is now Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The discovery led to the founding of the Kennecott Mining Company, which began operations in 1903.
The mine quickly became one of the world’s largest producers of copper, producing over $200 million worth of ore over its lifetime. The company built a large complex of buildings and infrastructure to support the mining operations, including a hospital, school, post office, and several homes.
The Mine Employed Over 300 People
At its peak, the mine employed over 300 people, many of whom lived in the nearby town of McCarthy. The town had a population of around 1,000 people and was connected to the outside world by a 196-mile railroad that ran from Cordova to Kennicott.
The Kennicott Mine operated until 1938 when falling copper prices and the depletion of ore reserves led to its closure. The town of McCarthy also declined, and by the 1950s, most of its residents had left.
In the 1970s, the National Park Service acquired the Kennicott Mine and Ghost Town, recognizing its historical significance and unique architecture. Today, the site is a popular tourist destination and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors can explore the remaining buildings and learn about the history of the mine and the people who worked and lived there.
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3. Russian Orthodox Church
Our next historic site played a significant role in the colonization of Alaska by the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. At #3 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In Alaska is the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1794, the first Russian Orthodox mission was established on Kodiak Island by St. Herman, who is now considered the patron saint of Alaska. Over time, the church expanded its presence throughout Alaska, establishing missions in places like Sitka, Unalaska, and the Yukon River.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska played an important role in the lives of Alaska Natives, who were often converted to Christianity by Russian missionaries.
The Holy Assumption Orthodox Church is a 19th-century wooden church located in Kenai and south-central Alaska.
It is a representation of the Russian culture in the area and still holds religious services. The church features a two-story bell tower and a crown-shaped cupola.
Visitors can tour the inside of the church to see icons, religious artifacts and historic objects that hold significance to the local community and the Russian Orthodox faith.
2. Skagway Historic District
We’re down to our final 2 historic sites. In the runner-up spot at #2 is a place which played an important role in the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th century. It’s the Skagway Historic District.
In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory in Canada, and Skagway quickly became a major transportation hub for miners and prospectors traveling to the gold fields.
The Skagway Historic District includes many buildings and structures that were built during this period, including hotels, saloons, and stores that catered to the needs of the gold rush population. One of the most famous buildings in the district is the Arctic Brotherhood Hall, a fraternal organization building that was built in 1899 and is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Skagway Historic District also includes the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, which was built in 1898 to transport goods and people to the gold fields. The railroad played a critical role in the success of the gold rush, as it allowed miners to transport large quantities of supplies to the remote region.
During the gold rush, Skagway was a wild and lawless place, with a reputation for violence and corruption. Many of the buildings in the Skagway Historic District have colorful histories that reflect this era, including the Red Onion Saloon, which was a popular spot for prostitutes and miners.
Today, the Skagway Historic District is a popular tourist destination, with many of the historic buildings restored and preserved. Visitors can take tours of the district, visit museums and exhibits, and learn about the fascinating history of the Klondike Gold Rush and the role that Skagway played in this period of American history.
1. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
We continue with our gold theme as we move on to our #1 site. More Than Just Parks has chosen the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park at the #1 Historic Site In Alaska.
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is located in Skagway, Alaska, and was established in 1976 to preserve the history of the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th century.
The park encompasses several historic buildings and structures in Skagway, as well as parts of the Chilkoot Trail, which was a major route used by gold seekers traveling to the Yukon Territory in Canada.
The Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896 when gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory. News of the discovery quickly spread, and thousands of people from around the world flocked to the area in search of their fortunes.
Many of these prospectors traveled through Skagway, which became a major transportation hub for those heading to the gold fields.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Today
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park includes several buildings in Skagway that date back to this period, including the Jeff Smiths Parlor Museum, which was once a saloon and gambling hall, and the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad Depot, which served as the transportation hub for those heading to the gold fields.
The park also includes parts of the Chilkoot Trail, which was a treacherous route that prospectors had to travel to reach the gold fields. The trail was known for its steep inclines, dangerous weather conditions, and the risk of avalanches, and many prospectors perished while attempting to traverse it.
Today, visitors to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park can take guided tours of the historic buildings in Skagway, hike parts of the Chilkoot Trail, and learn about the history of the Klondike Gold Rush through exhibits and interpretive programs.
Things To See & Do At Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a park located in Seattle, Washington, and in Skagway, Alaska, which preserves and interprets the history of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899.
The park includes several historic sites that tell the story of the gold rush, including the Pioneer Square Historic District in Seattle and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in Skagway.
Visitors can learn about the experiences of those who took part in the rush, including the challenges they faced as they traveled to the Klondike, the communities that formed in the region, and the lasting impact the rush had on the area and its people.
The park offers a variety of educational programs, ranger-led tours, and exhibits to help visitors understand this important chapter in American history.
While You’re There, Be Sure To Check Out The Chilkoot Trail
The Chilkoot Trail was a historically significant trade route used by the Tlingit people before the arrival of Euroamericans in the 1880s.
It was one of the three year-round passes in southeast Alaska and became the most popular trail for miners and prospectors. Despite facing pressure to allow foreigners to use the trail, the Tlingits were able to maintain their control over the trail until the 1880s.
Today, the Chilkoot Trail is a popular recreational hiking trail and is part of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park.
Hikers can still use the trail today, but it requires a permit and the trail is only open for hiking from late May to late September.
List Of Historic Sites In Alaska
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
- Skagway Historic District
- Russian Orthodox Church
- Kennicott Mine & Ghost Town
- SS Nenena
- Sitka Spruce Park
- George C. Thompson Historic Library
- Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park
- Oscar Anderson House Museum
- Crow Creek Mine
Why Trust Us About Historic Sites In Alaska?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, U.S. Forest Service, and more for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
And, in 2018, our father – having spent a lifetime teaching history – joined us so that he could help us to tell the stories behind these amazing places.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!