Golden Past Leaves Its Mark on State's Cities

BY JERRY BROWN

Reed Travel Features

ANCHORAGE -- Skagway was founded because of it.

Juneau, the state capital, was named after a man who found it in great quantities.

It gave impetus to the development of Nome and Fairbanks.

Ketchikan and Sitka benefited greatly as staging places for those in search of it.

"It" is gold, the precious metal that played such a major role in the development of many Alaskan communities and, indeed, in the evolution of the state from its territorial roots.

Although many think of Anchorage -- Alaska's only major metropolis -- as a contemporary creation, it, too, owes much to the discovery of gold in the surrounding area of south-central Alaska.

Long before it was a world transportation and commercial hub, Anchorage was the principal port and supplier of goods for many thousands of prospectors bound for the mines and streams of Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Peninsula in search of riches.

The gold was first found in the area not long after cash-strapped Russia sold what became Alaska to the U.S. for the sum of $7.2 million.

The stampede that the discovery caused led to the birth of new towns, many of which flourished briefly but did not outlast the gold fever.

Sunrise, for instance, near the mouth of Resurrection Creek, grew fast and then dwindled with the gold and, finally, ceased to exist in 1939.

Although others came and went, Anchorage built on its position as the principal port and central city of the gold area.

Its gold rush heritage is captured in a new booklet published by the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau as part of the Alaska Gold Rush Centennial celebrations now under way.

The bureau is at 524 W. Fourth Avenue, Anchorage 99501-2212; (907) 276-4118; fax (907) 278-5559.

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