Juneau, Alaska

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City and Borough of Juneau
City and Borough
Gastineau Channel with downtown Juneau

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Location of Juneau City and Borough, Alaska
Juneau, Alaska is located in Alaska
City and Borough of Juneau
Location of Juneau in the state of Alaska, United States
Coordinates: 58°26′40″N 134°13′47″W / 58.44444°N 134.22972°W / 58.44444; -134.22972Coordinates: 58°26′40″N 134°13′47″W / 58.44444°N 134.22972°W / 58.44444; -134.22972
Country United States
U.S. State Alaska
Named 1881
Government
 • Mayor Bruce Botelho
Area
 • City and Borough 3,255.0 sq mi (8,430.4 km2)
 • Land 2,715.7 sq mi (7,036.1 km2)
 • Water 539.3 sq mi (1,394.3 km2)
 • Urban 12.0 sq mi (31.1 km2)
Elevation 56 ft (17 m)
Population (2010)
 • City and Borough 31,275
 • Density 11.3/sq mi (4.4/km2)
 • Urban 17,311
Time zone AKST (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
Zip code 99801
Area code(s) 907
FIPS code 02-36400
GNIS feature ID 1404263
Mount Juneau

The City and Borough of Juneau (/ˈn/) is a unified municipality on the Gastineau Channel in the panhandle of the U.S. state of Alaska. It has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government of the then-District of Alaska was moved from Sitka as dictated by the U.S. Congress in 1900. The municipality unified in 1970 when the city of Juneau merged with the city of Douglas and the surrounding Greater Juneau Borough to form the current home rule municipality.

The area of Juneau is larger than that of Rhode Island and Delaware individually and almost as large as the two states combined. Downtown Juneau 58°18′07″N 134°25′11″W / 58.30194°N 134.41972°W / 58.30194; -134.41972 is nestled at the base of Mount Juneau and across the channel from Douglas Island. As of the 2010 census, the City and Borough had a population of 31,275.

Juneau is named after gold prospector Joe Juneau, though the place was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg (after Juneau's co-prospector, Richard Harris). The Tlingit name of the town is Dzántik'i Héeni ("river where the flounders gather"), and Auke Bay just north of Juneau proper is called Aak'w ("little lake") in Tlingit. The Taku River, just south of Juneau, was named after the cold t'aakh wind, which occasionally blows down from the mountains.

Downtown Juneau sits at sea level, with tides averaging 16 feet (5 m), below steep mountains about 3,500 feet (1,100 m) to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) high. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; two of these, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Lemon Creek Glacier, are visible from the local road system; the Mendenhall glacier has been generally retreating; its front face is declining both in width and height.

The Alaska State Capitol in downtown Juneau was originally built as the Federal and Territorial Building in 1931. Prior to statehood, it housed federal government offices, the federal courthouse and a post office. It also housed the territorial legislature and many other territorial offices, including that of the governor. Today, it is still the home of the state legislature and the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor. Other executive branch offices have largely moved elsewhere, in Juneau or elsewhere in the state, in the ongoing battle between branches for space in the building, as well as the decades-long capital move issue. Recent discussion has been focused between relocating the seat of state government outside of Juneau and building a new capitol building in Juneau. Neither position has advanced very far. The Alaska Committee, a local community advocacy group, has led efforts to thus far keep the capital in Juneau.

History[change | edit source]

Chief Anotklosh of the Taku tribe, circa 1913.

Long before European settlement in the Americas, the Gastineau Channel was a favorite fishing ground for local Tlingit Indians, known then as the Auke and Taku tribes, who had inhabited the surrounding area for thousands of years. The native cultures are rich with artistic traditions including carving, weaving, orating, singing and dancing, and Juneau has become a major social center for the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian of Southeast Alaska.

The first European to see the Juneau area was Joseph Whidbey, master of the Discovery during George Vancouver’s 1791-95 expedition, who explored the region in July–August 1794. Early in August he saw the length of Gastineau Channel from the south, noting a small island in mid-channel. He later saw the length of the channel again, this time from the west. He said it was unnavigable, being filled with ice.[1]

In 1880, Sitka mining engineer George Pilz offered a reward to any local chief who could lead him to gold-bearing ore. Chief Kowee arrived with some ore and several prospectors were sent to investigate. On their first trip, to Gold Creek, they found deposits of little interest. However, at Chief Kowee's urging Pilz sent Joe Juneau and Richard Harris back to the Gastineau Channel, directing them to Snow Slide Gulch (the head of Gold Creek) where they found nuggets "as large as peas and beans", in Harris' words.

On October 18, 1880, the two men marked a 160-acre (650,000 m2) town site where soon a mining camp appeared. Within a year, the camp became a small town, the first to be founded after Alaska's purchase by the United States.

The town was originally called Harrisburg, after Richard Harris; some time later, its name was changed to Rockwell, after Lt. Com. Charles Rockwell. In 1881, the miners met and renamed the town Juneau, after Joe Juneau. In 1906, after the diminution of the whaling and fur trade, Sitka, the original capital of Alaska, declined in importance and the seat of government was moved to Juneau. Juneau was the largest city in Alaska during the inter-war years, passing Fairbanks in the 1920 census and displaced by Anchorage in 1950.

In 1911, the United States Congress authorized funds for the building of a capitol building for the Alaska Territory. Because of World War I, construction was delayed, also there were difficulties purchasing the necessary land. Local citizens of Juneau donated some of the required funds, and construction began on September 8, 1929. Construction of the capitol took less than two years, and the building was dedicated as the Federal and Territorial Building on February 14, 1931. The design of the building was drawn up by Treasury Department architects in the Art Deco architectural style. The building was originally used by the federal government in order to house the federal courthouse and post office. Once Alaska gained statehood in 1959, the building has been used by the state government.

The Alaska Governor's Mansion was built using the Public Building Act in 1910. The 14,400 square feet (1,340 m2) mansion was designed by James Knox Taylor in the in the old Federal Style.

Robert Atwood, then publisher of the Anchorage Times and an Anchorage 'booster,' was an early leader of a group that has tried to move the capital to Anchorage. Many people in both Juneau and Fairbanks have fought the proposal. One provision required the new capital to be at least 30 miles (48 km) from Anchorage and Fairbanks, to prevent either city from having undue influence; in the end Juneau remained the capital. In the 1970s, voters passed a plan to move the capital to Willow, a town 70 miles (110 km) north of Anchorage. But pro-Juneau people there and in Fairbanks got voters to also approve a measure (the FRANK Initiative) requiring voter approval of all bondable construction costs before building could begin. Alaskans later voted against spending the estimated $900 million. A 1984 "ultimate" capital-move vote also failed, as did a 1996 vote.

So, Alaskans voted several times on moving their capital, but Juneau remains the capital.[2] Once Alaska was granted statehood in 1959, Juneau grew with the growth of state government. Growth accelerated remarkably after the construction of the Alaska Pipeline in 1977, the state budget being flush with oil revenues; Juneau expanded for a time due to growth in state government jobs, but that growth slowed considerably in the 1980s.[3] The state demographer expects the borough to grow very slowly over the next twenty years.[4] Cruise ship tourism grew rapidly from about 230,000 passengers in 1990 to nearly 1,000,000 in 2006 as cruise lines built more and larger ships—even 'mega-ships', sailing to Juneau seven days a week instead of six, over a longer season, but this primarily summer industry provides few year-round jobs. Its population rank in 2000 was second in the state, closely ahead of Fairbanks; recent estimates have Juneau falling back to third, as it was in the 196090 counts.

Transportation[change | edit source]

AMHS's flagship, the M/V Columbia.
Juneau is a popular cruise ship destination.
Alaska Airlines flight moments after landing at Juneau International Airport.
The Juneau-Douglas Bridge, connecting mainland Juneau with Douglas Island. The original bridge was built in 1935. The bridge shown here, which replaced the original, was completed in 1980.
Juneau in the winter

Juneau is accessible only by sea or air. Cars and trucks are transported to and from Juneau by barge or ferry. The State-owned ferry is called the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS). Juneau is one of only four state capitals not served by an interstate highway.[Note 1]

Local government operates a bus service under the name Capital Transit. There are also several taxicab companies, and tour buses used mainly for cruise ship visitors. Many tourists arrive on cruise ships that sail from Vancouver or Seattle.

Juneau International Airport serves the city & borough of Juneau. Alaska Airlines is as of 2009 the sole commercial jet passenger operator. MarkAir and Western Airlines and its successor, Delta previously served Juneau. Alaska Airlines provides service to Anchorage and Sitka as well as to many small communities in the state. Seattle is a common destination for Juneau residents. Wings of Alaska, Alaska Seaplanes, and Air Excursions offer scheduled flights on smaller aircraft to villages in Southeast Alaska. Some air carriers provide U.S. mail service.

There is an extensive highway system around Juneau. The Juneau-Douglas Bridge connects Juneau mainland with Douglas Island. The road system does not connect to any other city. Avalanche hazards, steep slopes, cold weather and environmental protection concerns are factors that make road construction and maintenance difficult and costly.

Sister Cities[change | edit source]

Notes[change | edit source]

  1. Dover, Delaware; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Pierre, South Dakota also do not have an interstate highway connection.

References[change | edit source]

Other websites[change | edit source]