Old Images of Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage Alaska tent city June 27 1915

Glimpse history through old images of Anchorage, Alaska, Western United States of America.

Quick History

The first video is a quick history of Anchorage, told in just under three minutes.

It includes footage of the devastating earthquake damage suffered by the city on Good Friday, 1964, and construction of the transa-Alaska pipeline following discovery of the largest oil field in North America four years later.

History of Anchorage – KathiJohnsonAlaska on YouTube

Photo of Tent City 1915

This image is from an album of 298 black-and-white photographs taken by August Cohn during his work with the Alaska Engineering Commission in 1915-17.

Cohn was a civil engineer and surveyor who worked on the survey of the original site on which the town (and later city) of Anchorage was built. He also was involved in surveying and engineering work for many of the bridges that were constructed along the Alaska Railroad from Seward to Nenana.

The photographs in the album focus on the Anchorage town site area, including images of construction, railroad buildings and equipment, Anchorage residents and their families, houses, cabins, and local businesses. Other locations that Cohn photographed and that are included in the album are Seldovia, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Juneau, Yakutat, and Seward in Alaska and Seattle, Washington. Cohn generally recorded the date, location, and subject of each photograph.

The album was donated to the Anchorage Museum by Cohn’s daughter, Helen Copeland, in 1997. It was digitized for the Meeting of Frontiers digital library project in the early 2000s.

Earthquake 1964

On March 27, 1964, Alaska was hit by a magnitude 9.2 earthquake, the strongest earthquake North America had ever recorded, quickly followed by several further tremors.

At that point, the damage to building was estimated at £200 million (it’s a British newsreel).

The injured were taken to the local hospital even though it had also been damaged.

Alaska Earthquake – 1964 | Today In History | 27 Mar 17 – British Movietone on YouTube

Anchorage in 1987

At the time this half hour film was made in 1987, Anchorage was just 70 years old and its resident population was roughly 250,000.

The history starts with the tent city of 1915, which sprang up because Alaska Engineering Commission chose the location as the headquarters of the Alaska Railroad.

That means the largest city in Alaska was founded on the railway, rather than the fur trade or gold rush that typified the creation of most Alaskan settlements.

By 1987, poor transportation corridors, an outdated land-use system and lower revenues meant the city was in a period of adjustment.

Interviews include:

  • Mike Carberry, senior planner for the Municipality of Anchorage
  • Bob Atwood, publisher of the Anchorage Daily Times
  • George Sullivan, former mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage
  • Walt Parker, former member of the Anchorage Assembly
  • Bill Luria, municipal planning director
  • Greg Jones, Anchorage planning commissioner
  • Barry Quinn, director of capital projects for the Municipality of Anchorage
  • Tony Knowles, Anchorage mayor
  • Scott Hawkins, economist.

This film is part of the Alaska Review collection held by the Alaska Film Archives, a unit of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives Department located in the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Anchorage in Changing Times (1987) – Alaska Film Archives – UAF on YouTube

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