After the Alaska Railroad decided to move its headquarters to Anchorage in 1916, the Alaska Engineering Commission (AEC)—the construction arm of the federally owned railroad—erected nineteen dwellings to rent to its employees. Most were occupied by relatively higher-up officials with the AEC, as the residences became some of first permanent structures in Anchorage after it had been largely a tent city throughout 1915.
The original cottages were built on three blocks on the north side of the original townsite, just down the hill from the growing commercial district (there were thirteen similarly dated structures across Ship Creek, just north of downtown Anchorage in the Government Hill neighborhood). The ones built on the original Anchorage townsite may be found most prominently along Christensen Drive and Third Avenue. The houses were simple buildings, one- or one-and-a-half stories high and wood-framed, in a variety of plans, some of which were reused. In size they resemble cottages but also feature some bungalow elements. Cottage No. 23 (618 Christensen Drive) is representative, with its square ground plan, measuring 35'3" on the front elevation by 31'8" on one side and 27'4" on the other side.
Although most of the original AEC Cottages have been dismantled or destroyed, there are a few left. Eight are located in Government Hill, and eight are preserved in downtown Anchorage. Some have been converted to offices, reflecting their desirable location on the edge of downtown, but the area maintains its residential scale. Along Third Avenue is one of the earliest cottages in Anchorage, which now houses the highly regarded restaurant, Marx Brothers Café. The AEC Cottages, along with the Leopold David House and the Oscar Anderson House, remain the most well-preserved and fitting tributes to a bygone era of Anchorage’s history.
"A.E.C. Cottage No. 25," Anchorage, Alaska. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1996. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Koziel, Frank S., "A.E.C. Cottage No. 23," Anchorage, Alaska. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1990. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.