I spent some time walking through Pioneer Park, which was originally known as Alaskaland. The temperature was hovering just above zero at the time, and there was absolutely no one else in the park. None of the buildings were open either, with the tourist season running from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.
Tag Archives: Fairbanks
The SS Nenana today:
In 1957, the SS Nenana was brought to Fairbanks. She was docked on the Chena River and became a restaurant and boatel. By 1960, her new owners were not making enough money in the venture, so the Nenana sat unused until 1965. During that time, souvenir hunters hit the old sternwheeler hard.
The 100th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska was closing in at that time. “Alaskaland”, a borough park dedicated to Fairbanks history, had just opened, and the SS Nenana would be a welcomed addition. A channel was dug from the Chena River to the park, and the old sternwheeler was floated in.
That is where one can find her today. In 1986, the Nenana saw an extensive restoration. Working off of old photos and the original floor plan, the renovation took six years. Some original items from the ship were found, others had to be fabricated.
The SS Nenana is one of only three steam-powered passenger sternwheelers left in the United States, and of the three, the Nenana is the largest. She is also the first sternwheeler to be built from blue-prints.
Time and the elements have once again taken their toll on the Nenana. Recently, the borough has closed the interior of the ship to summer tours. Another renovation of the old sternwheeler looks to be on the horizon. Without it, the ship will be dismantled. The “Friends of the SS Nenana” are gearing up to “stabilize and restore this one of a kind piece of history”.
In 1923, Warren G. Harding became the first president to visit the Alaska Territory. Harding traveled by rail across the continental United States, then by ship to Seward, Alaska. The entourage traveled by rail once again to, what was then known as McKinley Park (Denali), followed by the short run north to Fairbanks. At the time, it was one of the longest trips ever taken by a sitting U.S. president.
While in Alaska, Harding helped celebrate the completion of the Alaska Railroad, which runs between Seward and Fairbanks. Harding even drove in the “golden spike” at the stop in Nenana. Upon arrival in Fairbanks, city dignitaries were told that no Ford vehicles could be used in the motorcade. Speculation ran wild, but most likely it was due to rumors that Henry Ford may mount a presidential run himself.
President Harding gave a speech to 1500 Fairbanks residents in 94 degree heat. A reporter, Charlie Ross, who later served as press secretary to Harry Truman, cursed the White House staffers who advised the press to bring only warm clothing and long underwear.* It was Alaska, after all.
Harding and Company were originally scheduled to take the Richardson Trail back to Chitina, and then the Copper River & Northwestern (CR&NW) Railroad over to Cordova on Alaska’s southern coast.
Now that would have been a trip to write home about!
The Richardson at the time, was an unruly, rugged, mosquito infested track by all accounts, and the railway was affectionately known as “The Can’t Run & Never Will”. Sadly for history and adventure lovers everywhere, Harding’s “fatigue” forced the group to travel back to Seward they way they had come.
One railcar from President Harding’s 1923 visit is located within Fairbanks’ Pioneer Park. It is a Pullman passenger car, and one of three that was in the presidential train. Built in 1905 in Chicago, the Pullman is also known as the Denali car, and carries the Alaska Railroad equipment number X-336. Purchased by the Alaska Railroad in 1923, it saw passenger service until 1945. It was restored in 1960 and given to the city of Fairbanks. It has been in Alaskaland/Pioneer Park since 1967.
*The Anchorage Daily News
Data for 16 January 2019; information requested by RWS
High temp: -2F
Low temp: -19F
Average Daily high: 0F
Average Daily low: -16F
Record high: 52F
Record low: -58F
Length of day: 5 hours, 12 minutes
We saw a gain of 6 minutes of daylight from the previous day. We have gained roughly 34 minutes in the morning, and 57 minutes in the evening since the Winter Solstice.
A pair of trumpeter swans are annual summer residents of the neighborhood. They nest off of a large shallow lake in the back forty, but usually arrive before the ice has gone out. For the first few weeks, they can be seen swimming in, what is really no more than a glorified puddle, until the lake thaws. The swans are not often seen in this small pond near the cabins, but they do make an appearance or two every summer. This visit took place in August of 2018.
Camera: Leica M3/135mm Leitz lens; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar 100
“As the days lengthen, so the cold strengthens…”
We have had a fairly mild winter so far in Alaska’s Interior. There have been a few nights in the -20F range, and little to no -30. As we pass the half way mark, my wood pile, much to the resident weasel’s delight, has well over 50% remaining.
On Saturday, the high temp barely made it to -25F, and Sunday morning it dropped down to -36F. For us, that isn’t drastic cold, but we’ve been spoiled of late, and the drop has people chattering. It also caused the phone to start to ring. Like natural disasters, cold weather brings work for the contractor. A call requesting exterior work was met with a chuckle, and the response: “Not until it warms up”. A call on Saturday night about frozen pipes required a schedule change. I don’t enjoy dealing with frozen pipes, but at least they are not my pipes.
As the forecast stands, there will not be much of a break in the cold front for a week. Next Sunday, we may near single digits below zero, and we currently don’t have positive temps on the agenda until Monday.
To all of the readers who swing by Circle to Circle from time to time, I wish you all nothing but the best in 2019.
Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the globe: End Of The Road, Alaska.