Stalking 1960s Anchorage

December 27, 2020 at 5:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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One of my projects in 2020 has been recording podcasts with retired Anchorage architect Ralph Alley. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time and for me it’s been like speaking to a childhood hero. Society in general has gone through some transformations in the 61 years since Ralph’s first arrival in Anchorage — then a much smaller city.

Today I walked around downtown and nearby on the same streets and sidewalks Ralph frequented decades before, and revisited some places that figure in the 11 podcast episodes we’ve recorded thus far.

2020 skyline of Anchorage beyond the Ship Creek railroad yards, seen from Government Hill.
49th State Brewpub Restaurant at W. 3rd Ave. and G Street. The main part of the building at left is older than it looks…
…seen here in 1922 not long after completion.
One of Ralph’s 1970s projects was this monument to Captain Cook and a multi-level cascading deck with a commanding view of the inlet. In 2020 there has been talk of removing the Cook statue as the societal dialogue regarding the past treatment of indigenous peoples and manifest destiny has evolved.
The towers of the Captain Cook Hotel, seen from W. 4th Ave. and L Street near the Cook monument.
On this now empty half-block was a boarding house that was Ralph Alley’s first Anchorage residence in 1959, seen from near W. 6th Ave. and H St. The boarding house stood near where the parking payment kiosk is in the foreground. Where the hotel tower stands beyond [at 5th and G] in 1959 was the Jonas Brothers store.
Jonas Bros. at 5th and G, circa late 1950s.
Loussac Sogn Building, W. 5th Ave. and D St. The offices of Manley and Mayer, Architects were here — Ralph worked for that firm 1959-64.
President Eisenhower’s mororcade, eastbound on 5th Ave. between D and E Streets, June 12, 1960. Ralph was on the street that day with friends and saw the president “whip by at around 50 mph”, suggesting he must have been supported by a hidden mast.
W. 4th Ave. and E St. in 2020. Beyond, where the low brick building now stands was the Hewitt’s Drug Store buiding. Ralph’s apartment in 1963 was in the east end of the building above the Cheechako Bar. The building was damaged in the 1964 earthquake and town down a few months afterward.
Hewitt’s building in 1949.
Club 25 [Wendler Building] in 2020 at 4th and D. Moved here in 1983 from its original location at 4th and I.
Club 25 at 4th and I, circa 1970. In one of the podcast episodes Ralph talks about being taken out to lunch at Club 25 and the raucous atmosphere created by the colorful propeietor, Myrtle [Wendler] Stalnaker, daughter of the original owner.
Wendler Building in 1917. The girl in the photo might be Myrtle or her sister?
2020 view of the Inlet Tower at W. 12th Ave. and L Street, another of Ralph Alley’s early ’60s Anchorage apartment homes. He house-sat here then had two different apartments of his own. This building and a twin building about a mile away were built in 1951 and were for years the two tallest buildings in Anchorage at 14 stories.
The so-called “Frou-frou House” at W. 15th Ave. and O St. where Ralph lived with two housemates in 1964. Since then the house has received a second-story addition and a two-story dwelling unit on its west end, turning it into a large duplex. The carport, brick fireplace wall, entrance and living areas are similar to their 1964 appearance. Ralph was standing at the top of the steps looking down into the sunken living room at 5:35 pm on March 27, 1964 when the magnitude 9.2 earthquake rocked his world!
The Denali Theater on 4th Ave., post-quake.
2020 downtown Anchorage skyline from Ship Creek.

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