PUBLISHED: 3:58 PM on Wednesday, April 18, 2007
More than ghost stories
Funds aimed to preserve Juneau's historic landmarks

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Funds are aimed to preserve historic landmarks in Juneau such as the Alaskan Hotel, pictured above, and old neighborhoods whose original structures and features remain.
If the walls of the Alaskan Hotel and Bar could talk, they would tell stories of past eras and sagas. Jules B. Caro, promoter-entrepreneur and the McCloskey brothers built the hotel in 1913 for traveling miners.

At the time, it was called a "pocket edition of the best hotels on the pacific coast," according to the hotel's Web site. It apparently was also a bordello. Ron Wendt, author of "Haunted Alaska," writes that a ghost from a century ago haunts the hotel. It's the spirit of a young woman, as the story goes. Her husband left on a mining expedition, and failed to return. She ran out of money and turned to prostitution. According to Wendt, when the man finally came back, he was furious and killed her in the building.

Now thanks to historic landmarks like the Alaskan Hotel and old neighborhoods whose original structures and features remain, Juneau has been designated a Preserve America Community by the federal government.

Designation provides national recognition that the community protects and celebrates its heritage and uses its historic assets for economic development and community revitalization. It can also help communities develop historical resource management strategies and opportunities related to heritage tourism. Juneau has 10 historic neighborhoods and more than a dozen buildings listed on the National Trust for Historic Places. They include the Alaskan Hotel, the Governor's Mansion and the Mayflower School in Douglas. Earlier this year, True West magazine named Juneau a top 10 True West town for its preservation of historic treasures.

One of the most important aspects of the Preserve America designation is access to money. Jane Lindsey is Director of Juneau Douglas City Museum and worked on the application. She said she was notified April 6 about the selection. "Once you're designated a Preserve America community, there is federal monies to help promote cultural and heritage tourism in your community. I think this will help us look at what kind of cultural and heritage tourism we provide, who is using it and how we can do it better," she said. Last year designated communities were eligible for about $5 million in Preserve America grants.

Juneau city planner Matt Halitsky worked on the application with Lindsey. He said Sitka is the only other Alaskan community to be designated by the government program.

Earlier this month Juneau Mayor Bruce Botehlo proclaimed May as National Preservation Month in the capital city. In a prepared statement, he said it was a time to celebrate the role of history in citizens' lives and contributions made by dedicated individuals in helping to preserve tangible aspects of city heritage.

Several events are planned to coincide with National Preservation Month. The City Museum, which last year was added to the national historic register, is organizing two seminars. The first is a presentation by a state preservation specialist on what it means to have a building listed on the Register. It's also organizing a workshop on how to conduct research on historic homes.

In recent years, Juneau has lost significant historic structures. The Holy Trinity Church building was listed on the National Register in 1978. It was destroyed by fire last year. The Endicott Building, also lost to fire, was another landmark.

But it's also had some success in raising funds to preserve important structures and boost interest in preservation. Last year the city received a $10,000 Historic Preservation grant from the Alaska Office of History and Archeology for restoration work on two former Alaska Juneau Gold Mining buildings.

Other city landmarks in need of attention include the Gross 20th Century Building and Merchant's Wharf.