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Holy Family Cathedral

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1946–1952, Augustine A. Porreca; 1966 entrance remodel, McEntire and Pendergast. 800 W. 5th Ave.

In 1915, one of the first years of settlement by those who arrived to construct the Alaska Railroad, Anchorage received representatives from the Catholic Church to establish a parish. Within a year, a small church was built on two lots in what became downtown Anchorage. The congregation quickly outgrew the space and needed a larger, more permanent structure. Although planning began early, funding for construction was not available until decades later, after World War II. Acclaimed Seattle architect Augustine A. Porreca designed the new church in the Art Deco style that had flourished in the interwar years; Porreca also designed theaters in a similar style. Construction began in 1946 and proceeded slowly as funds became available. The interior was not completed until 1952. The one-story church, ornamented with geometric lines, has a two-story, square bell tower at the front corner. The entrance was originally on the side, through the base of the bell tower, but when the church was elevated to the status of cathedral in 1966, a more formal entrance was built. Architectural firm McEntire and Pendergast added a stylized portico, and two pairs of doors with oversized transom windows replaced a large window with concrete mullions. In 1970, the exterior, which had always been a natural gray color, was painted off-white.

Holy Family Cathedral hosted Pope John Paul II in 1981, who delivered an address before 80,000 Alaskans and visitors and held a more intimate gathering in the cathedral’s basement for those with disabilities who were unable to attend the larger gathering. As the city’s population boomed in the late decades of the twentieth century, so too did the size of the Archdiocese of Anchorage. As a result, a new and larger structure, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was erected three miles away on Anchorage’s west side. In 2014, the two churches were designated co-cathedrals, although Holy Family Cathedral retains its status as the historic cathedral and mother church of the Archdiocese of Anchorage. 


Bagoy, John. "History." Holy Family Cathedral. Accessed June 17, 2020.

Freeman, Patricia. "Remembering the Pope's Alaska Visit." Anchorage Daily News, June 5, 2011. 

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland
Updated By: 
Ian C. Hartman (2020)



  • 1945


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Alison K. Hoagland, "Holy Family Cathedral", [Anchorage, Alaska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Alaska, Alison K. Hoagland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 85-85.

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