“The smell of cedar hits you in the face when you walk in the door.”

Almost 800 miles by road from Anchorage, located at the top of the Lynn Canal at the top of Alaska’s Inside Passage, Haines began life as a summer fish camp for the Tlingits who lived in Klukwan, about twenty miles up the road from Haines.

Naturalist John Muir showed up in 1879, and along with missionary S. Hall Young finessed a Ms. Francina Haines of the Presbyterian Home Missions Board out of enough money to finance a mission there (hence the name of the new town).

In 1902 the US Army built Fort Seward to the west of the townsite, named for William H. Seward, the secretary of the Interior who engineered the Alaska Purchase from Russia (two cents an acre, don’t forget, still the best deal the U.S. ever made).

Almost immediately they had to change the name to Port Chilkoot to avoid having all their mail sent to the city of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, and the locals still call it Port Chilkoot today.

The fort itself was decommissioned after World War II and the buildings sold as army surplus to five retired officers who had served there. They planned to create an arts community, which has been partially realized as what was the Fort Chilkoot hospital is now home to Alaska Indian Arts, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the preservation of the art and craft of the Pacific Northwest native tribes. A totem pole is currently under construction and Rose says, “The smell of cedar hits you in the face when you walk in the door.”

Alaska Traveler Chatter

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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