Anchorage's Four Original Neighborhoods

What elements make a great city? When Anchorage’s forefathers landed at Ship Creek in 1915, those elements were people, education, jobs, culture, capital investments, productivity and growth, food production and subsistence, wildlife and natural beauty. So these pioneers set out to make them all a reality.

In a place as remote as Alaska, though, they knew a great city wouldn’t happen without transportation. The grand dream was to build an interconnected railway across a small portion of Alaska’s territory, but no one really knew if it was feasible. They had done their fieldwork and tried to find the best possible route—but they needed men, materials, food, housing, and private investment. Men brought their families, which meant the need for education, culture, and recreation—and, of course, housing and local transportation. So these hardscrabble pioneers pushed dirt, rock, mud, and snow; plotted and sold land; set up government facilities; and tamed the wilderness in the quickest way possible to move Alaska forward.

Four distinct neighborhoods arose to meet the call for housing and land management offices, as well as school, library, and museum facilities. Some of the funds for this came from private investment, but in this highly unique and faraway place, the Federal government put significant resources into building the first cottages and first school, as well as providing money for power generation, communications, water, and sewer systems. It was an important investment. After all, this bustling boomtown had to bring coal, gold, and other natural resources to the lower 48. The citizens of Anchorage met that challenge.

They Started at Ship Creek

Stand at the Ship Creek boat launch and try to imagine the hopes and dreams that landed there with the people. The Dena’ina came first by water and across the land to hunt, gather, catch salmon and beluga, trade for wares, visit with friends and family, and to celebrate the many ceremonies held to thank their creator for this abundance.

Ship Creek was and is the epicenter of our fair city—an essential spot for both our Alaska Native Peoples and the Anchorage settlers. Home to fish camps and the First Salmon Ceremony by the Dena’ina, Ship Creek was also the first campsite of Jack and Nellie Brown. Jack had been sent here to manage the newly designated Chugach National Forest and arrived in 1912. Ship Creek became the major focal point for the new city, as well as the entire Territory of Alaska.

Today, Ship Creek is easily accessible to all, featuring hiking trails and fishing spots. Take a rod and reel and imagine the Dena’ina as they pitched their spring campsites to harvest the early run of King Salmon, hunt beluga whales, and commune with black and brown bears. The tradition is kept alive today with the annual Ship Creek Salmon Derby, a popular community event held each year.

Ship Creek was also home to a Tent City established in 1915, when Boomers arrived from all over the world amidst rumors of railroad employment. Russians, Swedes, and people from all over North and South American camped and worked alongside the Dena’ina to set up the railroad infrastructure, including the port and the railroad itself. You’ll find interpretive information about this along the Ship Creek Trail.

For more information: Historic Preservation Plan for Anchorage’s Four Original Neighborhoods

Did you know that all of these neighborhoods have structures built in the early 1900s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Take a walk or drive around town and see if you can find how many of them were built in 1915. Many were celebrated during the Anchorage 2015 Centennial.

Show Map


Today, this unique, geo­graph­i­cal­ly iso­lat­ed area is acces­si­ble only by bridge. But it’s worth the effort: you can stand on the very spot where Anchorage’s first neigh­bor­hood began, at the cor­ner of Delaney and West Har­vard streets. From here you can see the Brown’s Point Cot­tages to the west, now list­ed on the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. And walk north along West Har­vard Street to see what remains of the old cottages.

Downtown’s con­ve­nient grid pat­tern was set up at the same time that con­struc­tion start­ed on the Gov­ern­ment Hill neigh­bor­hood. And in 1915, downtown’s plots of land were auc­tioned off to the high­est bid­ders. Many of the build­ings from that era not only still stand, but are still named after some of the city’s found­ing fathers, remind­ing us of the sac­ri­fices they made to give a future to their bud­ding city.

This neigh­bor­hood was cre­at­ed in the late 1930’s and ear­ly 1940’s in response to the wartime build-up and ongo­ing need for hous­ing. To encour­age farm­ing, many lots were larg­er here than in Down­town or Gov­ern­ment Hill.

Fairview was built beyond the city bound­ary and became an estab­lished com­mu­ni­ty after World War II. Yet the area main­tained a fierce inde­pen­dence streak. Those who lived here hoped to avoid bureau­crat­ic over­sight and tax­a­tion, and even had their own pub­lic util­i­ty dis­trict. It was the only neigh­bor­hood that African-Amer­i­cans could buy prop­er­ty in. And when Anchor­age tried to annex the area in the 1950s, locals fought back, in a law­suit that  ...more