Anchorage

Anchorage, AK
Anchorage is the uncontested heart of Alaska, its largest city (almost ten times bigger than Fairbanks, the second largest) and, while not its official capital, still a center of government and political activity. An anomaly in Alaskan development, Anchorage was settled due not to the presence of natural resources, but to the early 1900s construction of the Alaska Railroad, the first significant rail project in what was then still a district most Americans probably thought little about.

Anchorage skyline

The land that makes up the state of Alaska was purchased by the U.S. government from Russia in the 1860s. The most dramatic population increases in Alaska’s history came during gold rushes in the 1890s and early 1900s, before the economically inconsequential area around Ship Creek was even settled. Ship Creek flows from Knik Arm, along with Turnagain Arm one of the two marine “arms” offering access to the Alaskan interior.

The railroad camp established by the Alaska Railroad Commission took up a strategic, but perhaps randomly selected, position between the Knick and Turnagain Arms. Minor railroad construction from the coast had proceeded slowly in previous years, but the government camp established at present-day Anchorage was the beginning of a much larger project to extend the railway almost 500 miles north to the gold mining camp and trading post of Fairbanks. This rail corridor remains the most densely populated region of this huge, largely uninhabited state.

The Alaska Railroad camp was the genesis of Anchorage, and the railroad would define the city’s economy for many years, until air travel and U.S. military activity increased in the 1930s and 1940s. While remote, Anchorage’s position in Alaska places it at a moderate and relatively even distance from most of the industrialized world, paradoxically making it a shipping and transport hub and important military site.

Despite enduring the world’s second largest earthquake in 1964, Anchorage experienced explosive overall growth between the 1950s and 1970s. The increasing development of transportation infrastructure complemented the discovery of Alaskan oil in 1968, prompting sustained population growth and making Anchorage Alaska’s definitive connection to the outside world. While Juneau remains the state capital, it has no overland connections with the rest of Alaska or North America and is even more remote than Anchorage. As a result, Anchorage actually features a much higher concentration of state government employees.

While Anchorage could be called a metropolis of sorts, at least by Alaskan standards, it’s clear that Alaska’s biggest attraction is the outdoors. The city makes a fitting base for excursions into scenery and environments more stunning than most Americans might believe is possible within the borders of the USA. The nearby Chugach Mountains in the Chugach National Forest provide unbelievable alpine views.

In Anchorage itself, several museums, including the Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Museum, and Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum provide fascinating insight into this incomparable community. Naturally, this is also the place to get some high-end shopping in before treks into the interior or an extended stay in this rough and ready region. Vine Vera Anchorage ensures that outdoor adventures and harsh weather don’t compromise a truly luxurious approach to healthy skin.

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