Maintaining a physical link to Alaska’s past is the mission and work of Preservation Alaska. Last week, the group published its 10 most endangered historic properties to kick off Historic Preservation Month in May.
This is the 32nd year that Preservation Alaska has brought awareness to endangered historical sites or properties. This year’s list includes one new property – the Chitina Emporium, built during the discovery of copper in Chitina during the early 1900s.
The SS Nenana was ranked as the most endangered property of them all. A wooden-hulled, sternwheel passenger boat, it is one of only three steam-powered passenger sternwheelers of any kind left in the U.S. and the only large wooden sternwheeler. Built in 1933 for Alaska Railroad service on the Yukon, Nenana, and Tanana Rivers, the boat provided access to interior Alaska before roads were built. It transported military cargo during World War II, including lend-lease aircraft on their way to Russia. Retired in 1955, the ship now rests at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks.
It needs significant repairs and restoration work. While Fairbanks North Star Borough has allocated some funding for the project, bids have twice come in over budget. The Friends of the SS Nenana are working on gathering donations to assist with the restoration of this unique landmark.
Other endangered properties include the following:
Ascension of Our Lord Chapel (Karluk), Eldred Rock Lighthouse (Haines), Pilgrim Hot Springs (Nome), Pioneer Hall (Ketchikan), Fort Wm. H. Seward Hospital (Haines), Bishop Rowe (Arctic Village), Bristol Bay Boats (Naknek) and HyYu Stamp Mill (Fairbanks).
A video detailing the history and significance of each site is posted here.
The annual endangered properties list is intended to bring public awareness to Alaska’s threatened historic sites in order to spark increased support for the conservation of endangered historic properties, which Preservation Alaska emphasizes are “assets important to tourism, economic development, and the cultural heritage of Alaska.”
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The Ten Most Endangered Grant Program funds hands-on preservation work on endangered properties, serving as seed money to leverage funding from other sources. One matching grant is awarded each year.
“The program calls attention to threatened properties that define our great state, the people that live here, and the heritage we share,” Preservation Alaska stated.
Nominations for this program are submitted by individuals and organizations living throughout Alaska and vetted through the organization’s committee. Preservation Alaska is working on an endowment fund to be able to award larger grants or more than one grant each year.