The Northward Building is famous as the Ice Palace popularized by Edna Ferber's 1958 novel. The eight-story building is steel framed with reinforced concrete floors, clad with metal siding. Undeniably plain, it exhibits the same austerity of design found in concrete buildings of Alaska. The building, in a rough H-plan, contained 210 apartments above stores on the first floor and a garage in the basement.
Although Ferber's Ice Palace was a glass-block marvel, her description of its reputation points to this building:
Alaska's first apartment house. People fought to live in it. Townsmen, dwelling in their frame houses and wrestling with the regional problems of heating, lighting, plumbing, water, were madly envious of Ice Palace tenants. There never was a vacancy unless a tenant accommodatingly died, rashly built a new house, or left permanently for Outside.
Later, a character explains:
It's an apartment house—kind of an apartment hotel, really. We're quite petted on it, and brag a lot. Maid service, restaurant, elevators, laundromats in the basement with twenty machines. Drugstore. Supermarket. The works. It's a town under one roof. ( Ice Palace[Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958], 18, 57–58)
Nearby is another early high-rise, the eleven-story Polaris Building, at the corner of First and Lacey. Now a hotel, the reinforced concrete building had 144 apartments above the first floor. Together, these two buildings changed the skyline of Fairbanks and the way of life—a self-contained Le Corbusier utopia for the Alaska frontier.