Overview of Anchorage

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Best of Anchorage - Overview

Anchorage, Alaska

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anchorage is a Unified Home Rule Municipality (officially called the Municipality of Anchorage) in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is also a census area. With 260,283 residents according to the 2000 census, Anchorage is the largest city in the state of Alaska, comprising more than two-fifths of the state's population. A State of Alaska Demographer in 2004 estimates the population at 280,000 but this estimate does not include the neighboring suburb of Chugiak/Eagle River which is technically part of the Municipality of Anchorage. Current estimates obtained from the State of Alaska's "Community Information Summaries" (CIS) website put the population of Chugiak/Eagle River at approximately 30,000 bringing the total population of the Municipality of Anchorage closer to 310,000 residents. The population is somewhat misleading as the city of Anchorage is larger in area than the entire state of Rhode Island. Anchorage was founded in 1915 and named after a place where a ship lies at anchor. Its unofficial nickname is "The City of Lights and Flowers", referring to its thousands of buildings outlined and adorned by tiny white lights throughout winter and its spectacular displays of flowers in the summer. Garden writers call Anchorage the "Hanging Basket Capital of the World" when it comes to the city's thousands of hanging baskets, and aviation buffs refer to the city by its former official slogan, the "Air Crossroads of the World", because of its geographical location between the two northern continents and its strategic location in the realm of worldwide shipping and transportation. [citation needed] In downtown Anchorage along the streets and sidewalks are 425 baskets of bright gold triploid marigold drenched with trailing sapphire lobelia. The blue and gold flowers represent the colors of the Municipality of Anchorage flag and the Alaska state flag. The city of Anchorage blooms with vibrant color during the late spring and summer. Today Anchorage has many features of a modern urban area, such as parks and forests, bike and city trails, skiing and cross-country ski trails, business and commerce, theaters, college and minor league sports, and many other forms of entertainment. The tourist industry is strong and offers many activities and attractions.


Russia was well-established in North America by the 1800s. In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward brokered a deal to purchase Alaska from debt-ridden Russia for $7.2 million, about two cents an acre. Alaska's value was not appreciated by the American press at that time, calling it "Seward's folly", "Seward's icebox", and "Walrussia". By 1888, gold was discovered along Turnagain Arm. In 1912, Alaska became a United States Territory. Anchorage was carefully laid out by city planners in 1914, originally as a railroad construction port for the Alaska Railroad, and on July 9, 1915, the first sale of town lots was held. In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson authorized funds for the construction of the Alaska Railroad. That same year the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce was formed. Ship Creek Landing in Anchorage was selected as the headquarters of this effort. Soon a "Tent City" sprang up at the mouth of Ship Creek and the population quickly swelled to more than 2,000. Would-be entrepreneurs flocked to this bustling frontier town, and they brought with them everything necessary to build a city. A popular hardware and clothing store, "The Anchorage", was actually an old dry-docked steamship named "Berth". Although the area had been known by various names, the U.S. Post Office Department formalized the use of the name "Anchorage", and despite some protests the name stuck. In 1920, the United States government relinquished its direct control over the city, and elections were held. Anchorage was incorporated on November 23, 1920. In 1923, William Mulcahy established the Anchorage Baseball League. Mulcahy was a baseball fan who was working as the Alaska Railroad station auditor assistant and established the baseball league in his spare time. Later in life, Mulcahy introduced Little League baseball and established the city's YMCA. The Mulcahy Park stadium and ball field were named in his honor for his contributions to early Anchorage. The 1930s were a time that Anchorage rebounded from the loss of population and industry it had suffered during World War I. Air transportation became increasingly important to Anchorage. In 1930, the original "Park Strip" landing field was replaced by a new facility, Merrill Field, which had a beacon and a control tower, and in a few short years, it became one of the busiest centers of civilian aircraft activity in the United States. In 1937, Providence Alaska Medical Center opened its doors. The arrival of US Army troops in 1940 marked a decade of growth based on military expansion for Anchorage. Growth spurted in the 1940s, with the construction of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, which made Anchorage a major defense center. In 1940, a canal was built connecting Lake Spenard with Lake Hood, making it the world's largest seaplane base. The outbreak of World War II with the threat of a Japanese invasion prompted continued expansion of military personnel and aircraft, and later the pressures of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union ensured continued heavy military investment in the Anchorage area. In 1947, the parking meter was introduced in Anchorage, and in 1949, the first traffic lights were installed on Fourth Avenue. Between 1939 and 1950, Anchorage's population spurted from 4,230 to 30,060, and the cost of living soared. Anchorage also experienced an unfortunate rise in crime during this tumultuous growth period, a problem the city would fight for decades. The decade of the 1950s was also eventful. In 1951 came the opening of the Seward Highway. On December 10, 1951, Anchorage established itself as the "Air Crossroads of the World" when Anchorage International Airport opened with transpolar airline traffic flying between Western Europe and East Asia. The new airport also became a refueling stop for flights between the contiguous 48 states and East Asia, until nonstop flights became practical around 1970, with the Boeing 747 airliner. In 1953, health care expanded with the opening of the Alaska Native Medical Center. Also, three volcanoes erupted in the area, including Mount Spurr, which dumped several inches of ash on Anchorage. KTVA, the city's first television station, began broadcasting in 1953. In 1954, the Alyeska Resort was established. In 1957, oil was discovered on the Kenai Peninsula. On January 3, 1959, Alaska joined the union as the 49th state. The decade of the 1960s began on a bright note for Anchorage after Alaska's attaining statehood. After Alaska became a state, Anchorage faced a severe housing shortage, which was solved partially by suburban expansion. In January 1964, Anchorage became both a City and a Borough. But on March 27, 1964, Anchorage was hit by the Good Friday Earthquake, which registered 9.2 on the Richter scale and caused tremendous destruction in south Alaska. This earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in North America and United States history, and Anchorage lay only 75 miles (120 km) from the epicenter. It killed 131 people across South Central Alaska, and property damage was estimated at over $300 million (1964 dollars). The brand new J.C. Penney department store in Anchorage was flattened. Anchorage's remarkable recovery from this disaster dominated life in the late 1960s. The continued threat of earthquakes has prompted a limit on the height of buildings in the city; the tallest buildings are 21 stories high. In 1968, Kincaid Park was created in South Anchorage from a former Nike surface-to-air missile site. That same year, oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Slope and, in 1969, oil-lease sales brought billions of dollars to the state. The decade of the 1970s was an important time of growth for the Anchorage economy. On March 3, 1973, the first 1049-mile-long (1690 km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race started from downtown Anchorage with 34 mushers. Twenty-two mushers finished the race, with the last one arriving in Nome one-month after he left the starting line. In recent years, winners have finished the race in less than 10 days. In 1974, construction began on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, with Valdez, not Anchorage, as its southern terminus. The oil discovery and pipeline construction fueled a modern-day boom when oil and construction companies set up their headquarters in Anchorage. The pipeline was completed in 1977 at a cost of more than $8 billion. In 1975, Bicentennial Park was created in Southeast Anchorage. On September 15, 1975, the city and borough consolidated forming a unified government. Also included in this unification were Eagle River, Eklutna, Girdwood, Glen Alps, and several other communities. The unified area became officially known as the Municipality of Anchorage. By 1980, the population of Anchorage had grown to 174,431. The decade of the 1980s was a time of growth, thanks to a flood of North Slope oil revenue into the state treasury. Capital projects and an aggressive beautification program, combined with far-sighted community planning, greatly increased infrastructure and quality of life. These included a new library, civic center, sports arena, and performing arts center. The 1980s was also a time when Alaska's up-and-down economy struck. The price of oil dropped dramatically, and recession hit Anchorage. But in 1984, Hilltop Ski Area was established, which along with the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, and Alpenglow at Arctic Valley gave residents three fully-operational skiing areas, benefiting tourism and recreational activities. In 1986, Kincaid Outdoor Center opens. In 1989, Mount Redoubt erupted again, curtailing aviation in the Anchorage area for a short period of time. The decade of the 1990s was a time when Anchorage saw gold. In 1996, the Arctic Winter Games were held in Chugiak/Eagle River and, in 1999, the Alaska Native Heritage Center opened. On July 8, 2000, the municipal airport was renamed "Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport" in honor of Alaska's longest-serving United States Senator. In spite of the height limitations on buildings, Anchorage today has an attractive skyline, particularly with the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet, or the often-visible Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) as a backdrop. From Government Hill, one can see the best view of Mount McKinley. Though space is limited in the "Anchorage bowl", as locals call the peninsula on which the city is located, many parks, greenbelts, and other undeveloped areas can be found within the city itself, making it particularly attractive to nature lovers (to say nothing of the attractions available just a short distance outside the city). Over the past thirty years, however, many of these undeveloped areas have filled in with houses, strip malls, and other development. Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount of land under the Anchorage Municipal control, which totals some 1,955 square miles (5063 km²) - about the size of Delaware. The majority of this land is located within the Chugach Mountains to the east of the city, which also comprises Chugach State Park.


Anchorage is located in South Central Alaska, at 61 13 06 North, 149 53 57 West. The city is about as far north as Stockholm or St. Petersburg, and as far West as Hawaii. It lies 290 miles (470 km) northeast of Kodiak Island, 130 miles (210 km) south of Mount McKinley, and it is on the upper branches of the Cook Inlet, the northernmost reach of the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered on the east by the Chugach Mountain state park.


At the official recording station, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ICAO: PANC), average January low and high temperatures are 8 F / 22 F (-13 C / -5 C) with an average winter snowfall of 69.5 inches (176 cm). The weather on any given day and indeed for entire seasons can be very unpredictable. Some winters feature several feet of snow and bitterly cold temperatures, while others, just a foot or two of snow and frequent thaws, which puts dangerous ice on the streets. On March 17, 2002, a record 24-hour (St. Patrick's Day) snow storm dumped 25.7 inches (65.3 cm) of snow on the Anchorage area, causing the airport and schools to close on that day, and several days longer for the schools. The 1954-1955 winter had 132.8 inches (337.3 cm), which made it the snowiest winter on record. The coldest temperature ever recorded at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport was -38 F (-38.8 C) on February 3, 1948. Summers are typically very mild and pleasant, though it can rain frequently. There is no beach-bathing in Anchorage, except at a few local lakes on the warmest summer days, when those lakeside beaches can be extremely popular. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport average July low and high temperatures are 51 F / 65 F (10 C / 18 C) and the hottest reading ever recorded was 86 F (30 C) on June 25, 1953. The average annual precipitation at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is 15.7 inches (39 cm). Aside from the winter cold, there are two primary nuisances associated with the seasons: in the summer, mosquitoes (which are much worse out in the Bush than in the city itself); in the winter, long nights and very short days. Since Anchorage is at such a high latitude, for months in mid-winter, residents go to work in the dark and return home in the dark. Those who don't study or work next to a window can go all week long without seeing the sun.

Local attractions

The H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark, opened in 2003, is located in South Anchorage. Alpenglow at Arctic Valley is a ski resort that is located on Ski Bowl Road in the Chugach State Park near Fort Richardson. The Alyeska Resort is a ski resort that is located in Girdwood. The Hilltop Ski Area is located on the gentle slopes of southeast Anchorage that weave against the base of Chugach State Park. The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting all forms of Nordic skiing. Points of interest There are features of Anchorage that make it unique: the large tidal range; multiple, beautiful cross-country ski trails; America's highest percentage of licensed airplane pilots (with several airports and landing strips in the city or nearby); a very low population density for a city its size; frequent small earthquakes; spring windstorms ("Chinook winds"); active volcanoes nearby (to the southwest, in the Alaska Range, volcanoes such as Mount Spurr, Augustine Volcano, Mount Redoubt, and others have coated the city with ash in recent years); its extreme youth (it was founded in 1915 but didn't grow much until the 1940s); and much else. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Anchorage is definitely an American city, replete with a vibrant business climate, large shopping malls, traffic congestion (one can't easily move about by foot and public transportation in the middle of winter), suburban-style subdivisions and threesuburbs, Girdwood, Eagle River and Chugiak, unless one counts the massive numbers of commuters who drive from as far away as the Matanuska Valley communities of Wasilla and Palmer. Anchorage is also home to a great deal of wildlife. Moose, black bear, and brown bear migrate into the Anchorage Bowl along greenbelts that link to the wilderness of Chugach State Park to the east. Brown bears follow the moose into town and are also attracted by the wild salmon runs in the city's waterways. A recent study of brown bears showed a surprising number enter the city and are active at night. Anchorage is also a seasonal home to an array of migratory birds. A film crew was in Anchorage in spring 2006 to film a documentary for the BBC on Anchorage's unique wildlife. Anchorage was named an All America City in the 1956, 1965, 1984-85, and 2002. The latest award was based on civic activities like the 2001 Special Olympics Winter Games, the Anchorage Youth Court [16], and Bridge Builders .
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