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The History of Barrow, Alaska

A Guide to Barrow, Alaska

Barrow, the northernmost community in North America, is located on the Chukchi Sea coast, 10 miles south of Point Barrow from which it takes its name. It lies 725 air miles from Anchorage. It lies at approximately 71 17' N Latitude, 156 14' W Longitude (Sec. 06, T022N, R018W, Umiat Meridian). The community is located in the Barrow Recording District. The area encompasses 19 sq. miles of land and 2 sq. miles of water.

Archaeological sites in the area indicate habitation from 500 to 900 A.D. Inupiat traditionally depend on subsistence marine mammal hunting, supplemented by inland hunting and fishing. Archaeological remains of sixteen dwelling mounds from the Birnirk culture exist today. Barrow was named for Sir John Barrow, 2nd Secretary of the British Admiralty. Barrow's Eskimo name is known as Ukpeagvik (place where owls are hunted.)

In 1881, the U.S. Army established a meteorological and magnetic research station near Barrow. The Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station was constructed here in 1893. A Presbyterian Church was established in 1899, and a post office was opened in 1901. Exploration of the Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 (now National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, NPR-A) began in 1946. The Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, 3 miles north of Barrow, soon followed. Formation of the North Slope Borough in 1972, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, and construction of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and Trans-Alaska Pipeline have each contributed to the development of Barrow. Today, tax revenues from the North Slope oil fields fund borough-wide services.

Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development