Historic Preservation
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Historic Preservation
in Fairbanks

Click to jump to List of historic buildings and sites discussed on this web site.

The Tanana-Yukon Historical Society  encourages public support of protecting sites like Creamer's Dairy and the others on its list. There is a city Historic Preservation Commission active as well.

Beginnings of Historic Preservation in Fairbanks
The city of Fairbanks recognizes National historic preservation week on the third week of May.

Congress passed the Historic Preservation Act in 1966, creating policies to protect America's historic sites ``in harmony with modern society.'' One result was the National Register of Historic Places, a listing of properties judged historically significant. Today, each state and many cities and towns have agencies or commissions that promote local preservation. Among other things, these agencies help owners of historic buildings find funding to help maintain or improve their properties.

Preservation technically means maintaining a building to stop further decay; restoration involves bringing back the original appearance, which can include removing additions or replacing missing original parts; and rehabilitation makes a building efficient for modern use, preserving or restoring historic features as needed.

The movement to preserve historic properties in Fairbanks goes back only about 30 years as the issue has been slow to gain widespread support. In 1967, citizens rallied to save certain old buildings around town that were threatened with destruction, moving many to Alaskaland, which was just being built.

A survey taken in 1978 by Architect Janet Matheson found 566 local historic sites, mostly houses or cabins. Many, like the Northern Commercial (N.C.) Co. buildings on First Avenue, have since been destroyed.

Commission on Historic Preservation Formed
But preservationists were already working to create a commission which could establish historic districts within the city (formally recognized historic districts often are eligible for state and federal funding for rehabilitation, and advocates say they can increase tourism as well as raise property values). In 1984, the city of Fairbanks adopted Ordinance No. 4354 to allow formation of historic districts inside the city limits, and two years later, as mandated in the ordinance, the Commission on Historic Preservation for Fairbanks and Fairbanks North Star Borough was formed.

The commission has authority to create historic districts in the borough and is responsible for maintaining a historic preservation inventory. One of its accomplishments is gaining recognition for Fairbanks as a "Certified Local Government.'' Cities with this status, according to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, are eligible for certain grant monies as well as technical and other help from state historic preservation offices.

The January 14, 199 issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published a story on the commission's attempt to establish two National Historic Districts. The First Avenue district would run from Wickersham Street to Bonnifield Street, and the Garden Island/Illinois Street district would run along Illinois Street north of Phillips Field Road to Noyes Slough, just before College Road.

The designation would not provide any real protection from development, but they will allow tax incentives for property owners within the district who renovate as long as the renovations are "in keeping with the original structure."

Fairbanks Historic Preservation Foundation
The Tanana-Yukon Historical Society and the commission actively promote the protection of local historic resources. Another non-profit organization, the Fairbanks Historic Preservation Foundation, is involved in actual physical restoration of historic properties of all kinds. Two of its projects were the restoration of the riverboat Nenana and the Warren G. Harding railroad car, both on display at Alaskaland.

Historical Buildings & Sites

Historical buildings and sites discussed at this web site include the following: (Note - they are not necessarily all recognized as officially historic under the definitions of the above entities.)

Alaskaland (various buildings, mostly in Gold Rush Village)

City Hall (old, now home of Community Museum)

Churches, Historic (this link page groups the churches covered also on this page.)

Courthouse Square (previous post office, jail, courthouse)

Creamers Field (previous dairy, now Migratory Waterfowl Wildlife Refuge)

Eldorado (This is an early gold camp turned into a tourist attraction, complete with historic railroad replica.)

Episcopal Church (early church in Fairbanks; it is still in use today)

Ester Gold Camp (a now defunct gold camp famous for the Malemute Saloon, which is still there, but closed at this time.)

F.E. Company Building (We are still trying to get information on the future prospects of this historic building.)

First Presbyterian Church (Now resides in state at Alaskaland. Still used for old-fashioned weddings)

Froelich Rainey Cabin (This one is located on the University of Alaska campus.)

George C. Thomas Memorial Library (original borough library, its future role is uncertain)

Harding Rail Car (located at Alaskaland).

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (at one time it was located on the other side of the Chena)

Judge Wickersham House (it has been turned into a mini-museum at Alaskaland)

Kitty Hensley House (cabin in Gold Rush Village at Alaskaland, tours available daily)

Main School (now City Hall)

Masonic Temple (originally built by the Tanana Commercial Company, its future is in doubt)

Nenana Railroad Depot (now home of Alaska State Railroad Museum)

Palace Saloon & Chena Hotel (moved to Alaskaland)

Riverboat Discovery (still taking passengers on one of the most popular rides in the state)

S. S. Nenana (restored and resting at Alaskaland, a diorama of the route it sailed is being constructed inside)

St. Mark's Episcopal Mission in Nenana (still in use, it was built in 1905)

 

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