I got to spend a week in Fairbanks, Alaska recently. Its rich history (by Alaskan standards, anyway) and friendly people make it a fun place to visit.
I was staying at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to participate in a workshop, but it only met in the afternoon. So I had mornings and evenings to look through the UAF archives and see the town. And, of course, I had to take a bunch of photos to share with you all.
Fairbanks was founded by E. T. Barnette in 1901 when the steamboat captain on the Lavelle Young dropped off his trading goods next to the Chena River, the water being too shallow to go further. Barnette built his trading post there on the riverbank. Felix Pedro found gold nearby in 1902, and the town of Fairbanks grew. There are still places where you can imagine how the country must have looked back then.
Despite the 1906 fire, there are a few buildings still around from the Gold Rush era.
Fairbanks continued with gold mining and trade, and grew even larger during World War II. It was the northern end of the Alaska (Alcan) Highway project, and the Lend Lease program brought the AlSib (Alaska-Siberia) route to town. American pilots ferried planes and materiel from the Lower 48 to Fairbanks’ Ladd Army Airfield. Soviet pilots took them from there to Siberia and the Russian western front to fight the Nazis. Almost 8000 planes made the journey. There is a great Lend-Lease Monument (http://www.alaska.org/detail/lend-lease-monument) next to the river.
Now, Fairbanks is the third largest city in the state at a little over 32,000 people. Downtown Fairbanks still has some interesting older buildings among the modern ones.
And thanks to the Paint the Pipes project, the pipes that provide air exchange for their central heating system are now decoratively painted by artists, adding a quirky Alaskan touch to them.
If you get a chance to visit Fairbanks, you should take advantage of it. It’s a neat town.