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Place-based Essays

Essays in SAH Archipedia are broadly grouped as either place-based or thematic. Place-based essays include overviews of architecture in specific U.S. states and cities. Thematic essays examine architectural and urban issues within and across state and regional boundaries. Like individual building entries, essays are accompanied by rich subject metadata, so you can browse them by style, type, and period. SAH Archipedia essays are comprised of peer-reviewed scholarship (born-digital and print-based) contributed by architectural historians nationwide.

Alaska

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Alaska's natural splendors are overwhelming. From the snow-covered peak of Mount McKinley to the volcanic islands of the Aleutian chain, from the expansive treeless tundra of the North Slope to the tall spruce and deep fjords of Southeast, the nature of Alaska is wild, vast, and magnificent. Humans...

South-Central Region

By: Alison K. Hoagland

South-central Alaska, where more than half of the state's population resides, stretches along the Gulf of Alaska from Icy Cape to the west side of Cook Inlet and encompasses the land north to the Alaska Range. This area includes the Saint Elias, Chugach, and Kenai mountain ranges...

Anchorage

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Anchorage is a place of jarring contradictions, a discontinuous modern high-rise city growing out of a frontier settlement with almost no points of transition. A grid-plan railroad town, Anchorage might have been an average American city were it not for its attractive location and...

Hope

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Hope is an inviting town of log cabins and frame cottages, rooted in the gold rush. Located on Turnagain Arm at the mouth of Resurrection Creek, Hope served as a supply point for gold miners on the Kenai Peninsula. Although gold mining on the Kenai was never as successful as at other...

Seward

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Nestled at the foot of 3,000-foot Mount Marathon, Seward is set on Resurrection Bay, a scenic harbor on the southern side of the Kenai Peninsula. Seward's fortunes involved the transportation industry, beginning with a Russian boat-building enterprise established in Resurrection...

Cooper Landing

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Four buildings built between 1905 and 1927 mark the historic town of Cooper Lanng, founded as a trading post on the Kenai River in the 1880s by Joseph Cooper. Although a wave of gold miners populated the town in about 1898, no buildings remain from that period. By about 1905,...

Kenai

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Set on a bluff overlooking Cook Inlet, on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula, Kenai and its surrounding area were home to the Kenaitze Indians for centuries before the Russians discovered it in 1791. One of several fur-trading enterprises, the Lebedev-Lastochin Company established...

Ninilchik

By: Alison K. Hoagland

The village of Ninilchik was founded in 1846 as a colony for Russian pensioners, most of whom had married Native women and wished to remain in Alaska when their tours of duty with the Russian-American Company were over. Fifty years later, the priest who visited the village as part...

Homer

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Homer is an appealing seaside town, remarkable for its 5-mile-long sand spit extending into Kachemak Bay. From 1899 to 1902, a company town flourished briefly at the end of Homer Spit, which was higher and wider before the 1964 earthquake. Coal was mined just west of present Homer, but...

Seldovia

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Seldovia, a pleasant fishing village at the mouth of Kachemak Bay, on Cook Inlet, has an unusual history as the crossroads of several Alaskan cultures. Aleuts, Eskimos, and Indians were all reported among the early population. Russians, too, knew of the area, and some settled here....

Knik

By: Alison K. Hoagland

North of the Kenai Peninsula, on the other side of Anchorage, is the abandoned settlement of Knik. Located on the northwest side of Knik Arm, Knik was founded in the nineteenth century as an Athabaskan trading post. The most visible reminder of the Athapaskan population here is a...

Wasilla

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Knik was a small port on Knik Arm that served as a supply point for the Willow Creek District and much of interior Alaska until 1915, when the Alaska Railroad plotted a course 13 miles northeast of the town. The railroad established Wasilla just northeast of Knik as a construction...

Palmer

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Palmer was founded in 1916 as a stop on the Alaska Railroad's branch line to the coalfields of Chickaloon, but it was not developed until 1935, when it was selected as the site for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration's Matanuska Colony project. The U.S. government transported...

Talkeetna

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Talkeetna was founded as a trading post for the Alaska Commercial Company in 1910; it was accessible by steamboat up the Susitna River from Knik. In 1912, however, the company moved its post and the young town faded until the Alaska Railroad established a construction camp at the...

Valdez

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Southeast of Anchorage, Prince William Sound has water deep enough for supertankers, surrounded by steep, jagged mountains. The effect is sublime. The largest settlement on the sound is Valdez, which served as a port of entry to the Alaska goldfields as early as 1897–1898. Its...

Cordova

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Cordova is located in the foothills of Mount Eyak, on the east side of Prince William Sound, between Orca Inlet and Lake Eyak. At the turn of the twentieth century, an Eyak Indian village and some canneries were clustered at the west end of Lake Eyak. This proved to be a strategic...

Chitina

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Located in the Copper River valley beneath the towering heights of the Wrangell Mountains, Chitina lies at the point where the railroad to Kennecott diverged from what was to have been the main line north to Fairbanks or Eagle. It was thus a transportation hub. Although the townsite...

McCarthy

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Founded in 1911 when the Copper River and Northwestern Railway arrived, McCarthy was the rough-and-tumble side of the carefully controlled environment at the Kennecott copper mine. Here, 4 miles down the road, liquor and women were readily available. In addition, the CR&NWRy...

Chisana

By: Alison K. Hoagland

The site of a 1913 gold stampede, Chisana once had four hundred log buildings; today there are about twenty. Deep in the Wrangell Mountains, Chisana's location remains remote, not connected by road to anywhere else.

In May 1913, Billy James, his wife, Matilda James, and Nels P...

Southeast Region

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Stretching nearly 600 miles southeast from the mainland of Alaska, the Southeast Region is a narrow strip of land with some of the most spectacular scenery and mild temperatures found in the state. In the north, between Icy Bay and Cross Sound, the coast is regular, with a coastal...

Skagway

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Skagway, the site of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, retains the finest collection of false-fronted commercial buildings in the state. A gold-rush boomtown, Skagway had several advantages that ensured its survival. Rather than being the site of a gold strike, Skagway was...

Haines

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Haines was founded as a Presbyterian mission in 1879 near the site of several Chilkat Tlingit villages. The land was deeded to the Presbyterians by the Chilkats and lies 10 miles southeast of Skagway on the opposite shore of the Lynn Canal. In 1881, Rev. Eugene Willard and his wife,...

Klukwan

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Just northwest of Haines is Klukwan, a Chilkat Tlingit village that shuns publicity and does not welcome visitors. It is the only survivor of four Chilkat villages. The Chilkat were the most prosperous of the Tlingit because they controlled access to the Interior through the Chilkat,...

Juneau

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Occupying one of the most beautiful settings of any state capital, Juneau is nestled at the foot of a mountain on the shores of the Gastineau Channel. The buildings of the city seek the flat land at the base; only mining structures venture very far up the mountainsides. Although basically...

Tenakee Springs

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Tenakee Springs is located on an inlet on Chichagof Island just west of Admiralty Island and, because of its natural hot springs, it has served as a modest resort since the nineteenth century. Miners wintered in Tenakee Springs beginning in the 1880s, but a measure of stability...

Angoon

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Across the Chatham Strait, on the west shore of Admiralty Island, the Tlingit community of Angoon retains a mix of buildings that demonstrates its architectural growth. It was originally a community of traditional plank houses, facing the beach, but the settlement was shelled by the U.S....

Sitka

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Sitka lies in a protected harbor on the western shore of Baranof Island. Once the capital of Russian America, its architecture represents elements of the three cultures—Native, Russian, and American—that are the legacy of Alaska. A group of Tlingit lived in the area and resisted the Russian...

Petersburg

By: Alison K. Hoagland

One of the most picturesque villages in Southeast, Petersburg on Mitkof Island was founded in 1897 by Norwegian Peter Buschmann, who built a sawmill and cannery here. Fellow Norwegians followed to create a flourishing fishing community. The population remained predominantly Norwegian...

Wrangell

By: Alison K. Hoagland

To the southeast on Wrangell Island, and connected by ferry to Petersburg and other points to the north and Ketchikan to the south, is the modern village of Wrangell. Although Wrangell has a fascinating history as the domain of four nations, its architectural character today is largely...

Kasaan

By: Alison K. Hoagland

Old Kasaan, on Prince of Wales Island, was inhabited by the Kaigani Haida. In 1902–1904 the villagers moved to a new site a few miles away, attracted by the employment opportunities of a copper mine and a salmon cannery. The Kasaan Bay Mining Company built new cottages for the villagers....

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