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The History of Whittier, Alaska

A Guide to Whittier

    Whittier is on the northeast shore of the Kenai Peninsula, at the head of Passage Canal. It is on the west side of Prince William Sound, 75 miles southeast of Anchorage. It lies at approximately 60 46' N Latitude, 148 41' W Longitude (Sec. 24, T008N, R004E, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Anchorage Recording District. The area encompasses 12 sq. miles of land and 7 sq. miles of water.

    Nearby Whittier Glacier was named for the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and was first published in 1915 by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey. A port and railroad terminus were constructed by the U.S. Army for transport of fuel and other supplies into Alaska during World War II. The railroad spur was completed in 1943, and the Whittier Port became the entrance for troops and dependents of the Alaska Command.

    The huge buildings that dominate Whittier began construction in 1948. The Buckner Building, completed in 1953, was once the largest building in Alaska, and was called the "city under one roof." The Hodge Building (now Begich Towers) was built for Army bachelors quarters and family housing; the first residents moved in during the summer of 1956. It is now a condominium and houses nearly all of Whittier's residents. The Port remained an active Army facility until 1960; at that time, the population was 1,200. The City was incorporated in 1969.

The Strangest Town in Alaska: The History of Whittier, Alaska and the Portage Valley The Strangest Town in Alaska: The History of Whittier, Alaska and the Portage Valley
Whittier sits at a fascinating historical crossroads, traveled for hundreds of years by natives, traders, explorers, gold rushers, the U.S. military, and now visitors from all over the world. The area surrounding Whittier and Portage pass had significant roles in the expansion of Russian America, the Alaskan Gold Rush, World War II, and the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. This 115-page book chronicles the events that shaped Whittier and Portage Valley, and looks ahead toward new events that hold great promise, including a unique road system that has only recently opened the doors to Whittier.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

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