If you are sailing to Alaska to join the gold rush in the 1880s there are two strategies to employ in your quest for riches - hit the ground and start looking or pay someone to tell you where the gold is. Mining engineer George Pilz took the latter tack; he offered a reward to local Tlingit Indian chiefs who could lead him to gold. Chief Kowee of the Auk Tlingit tribe produced some nuggets he claimed came from the Gastineau Channel, a traditional fishing ground. Pilz sent prospectors Richard T. Harris and Joseph Juneau to check out the streams in August of 1880. At first they found nothing but eventually they explored all the way to the head of now-named Gold Creek where they scooped up nuggets “as larges as peas and beans.” The Alaskan Gold Rush was on.

By October of 1880 a 160-acre town had been staked out. At first it was named for Harris and then called Rockwell after a military man named Charles Rockwell and finally, after a vote by the miners in 1881, Juneau. In boomtown fashion Juneau attracted fortune-seekers from around the world but after the loose gold in streambeds ran out most of the prospectors moved on and the town settled into the business of hard-rock mining. Before the last mines closed in 1944 the Juneau area would produce more than $80 million in gold.

In 1900, Juneau was incorporated into a city. Six years later after Sitka, the original capital of Alaska, suffered a population drain with the decline of its whaling and fur industries the government picked up and moved to Juneau. It has remained ever since, fending off repeated re-location bids from more centrally located towns like Fairbanks and Anchorage. There have been votes to move the capital in 1984 and 1996 and as recently as 2002 a movement to abandon Juneau was squelched. Luckily for Juneauites there are two powerful pretenders to the throne whose interests tend to to cancel one another out, lest the other gain an advantage. 

In the meantime Juneau, which can only be reached by water or air, hums along on the backs of the government that employs four out of every ten workers and the tourist industry which serves a million guests a year from arriving tour boats. The Juneau streetscape still resembles a frontier town with low-rise wooden buildings, about 60 of which remain from before 1900. There is no more spectacular state capitol setting than beside the Gastineau Channel at the foot of Mount Juneau and our explorations will begin on the docks where we are met by a very special greeter...

1. Patsy Ann Statue
dockside on south end of Marine Way just west of intersection with Franklin Street

In the 1930s every visitor to Juneau was welcomed at the docks by the “Official Greeter of Juneau, Alaska” - Patsy Ann. Patsy Ann was a bull terrier, born stone deaf in Portland, Oregon on October 12, 1929. She came to Juneau as a pup and soon developed an affinity for knowing when a boat was approaching and unerringly trotting to the proper dock to wait for the ship to come in. It was said she never missed a ship, regardless of the weather, sensing the vessels she could not hear. In between her rounds on the docks Patsy Ann was a regular at businesses in town, picking up a treat or a nap in beer halls and hotel lobbies. Her faithful image was depicted in magazine photographs and postcards and she even had a little biography written. When Patsy Ann died peacefully on March 30, 1942 she was placed in a small coffin and lowered into the Gastineau Channel. But she was never forgotten. Fifty years later New Mexican artist Anna Burke Harris rendered this remembrance of Patsy Ann which includes clippings of dog hair collected from across the world that were worked into the bronze at the casting to symbolize the uniting spirit of all dogs.

WITH YOUR BACK TO PATSY ANN TURN RIGHT AND WALK TO THE END OF MARINE WAY (THE JUNEAU LIBRARY IS ON YOUR RIGHT). DON’T FORGET TO RUB HER HEAD BEFORE YOU LEAVE.

2. Red Dog Saloon
278 South Franklin Street at northwest corner of Marine Way

In the go-go days in Juneau before the Prohibition Age in 1919 there was enough business to support 30 saloons in town. To compete, Red Dog proprietor Gordie Kanouse would meet tour boats on the dock with his mule wearing a sign directing passengers to “follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.” The Red Dog has operated in several locations around town and was moved intact to this spot in 1988 where it has been saluted by the Alaska Legislature as the oldest man-made tourist attraction in Juneau. Inside on display is a revolver checked by Wyatt Earp in 1900 in the marshal’s office in Juneau on his way to Nome but never reclaimed. 

TURN LEFT ON SOUTH FRANKLIN STREET.

3. Filipino Community Hall
251 South Franklin Street

There are records of Filipino sailors serving on merchant ships in Alaska back to the 1700s and “Manila Men” served on board the cable ship Burnside that helped to lay the underwater communication cables that linked Juneau with Seattle. By 1929 Filipinos were settling in Alaska in large numbers and Juneau was the destination of choice where men found work in the mines, opened restaurants and married Tlinget women. On February 7, 1956 Filipinos in Juneau formed a social non-profit corporation called the Filipino Community, Inc. that is now the oldest established Filipino organization in the State of Alaska. The building the Community purchased for its events began life here in 1909 as the Goldstein General Merchandise Store, started by Anna Goldstein. Anna and her husband Reuben were pioneers in Juneau who arrived from Winnipeg in the early 1880s and filed a mineral claim on the town site of Juneau. This was not generally known until 1888 when the Secretary of the Interior awarded the Goldsteins 29 acres of the town. The townsfolk revolted at the thought of losing their homesites and threatened to either “hang Goldstein or throw him in the bay.” Legal wrangling validated the claim but Goldstein accepted a sum of money instead of the land.

4. Senate Building
175 South Franklin Street

The beefy Senate Building is actually the result of merging two structures in 1944 - the 19th century Juneau Iron Works and the Central Building from 1913. Then in 1984 a fourth floor was added and the whole shebang was given the appearance of a single building. In the process all its historic integrity has been designed away.

5. Alaska Steam Laundry
17
4 South Franklin Street

You could make a lot of money cleaning the grimy work clothes of unmarried miners around gold camps and here is your evidence. One of the most eye-catching business structures built in 1901 Alaska was constructed to house a laundry. A witch’s cap turret anchors the composition that included the adjacent frame building to the north. The steam laundry occupied all of downstairs and the second floor contained apartments (good luck with that sleep). The Jaegers were the owners; when the couple decided they were tired of Tacoma, Washington in 1894 they flipped a coin to decide their next home - Hawaii or Alaska. The following year they were in Juneau running a laundry, which grew steadily. The laundry moved into a concrete operation center in back in 1928 and the Franklin Street building served many masters after that, including a medical clinic and now a small mall.  

6. Alaskan Hotel
167 South Franklin Street

Greeting its first guests in 1913, the Alaskan lays claim to being the oldest operating hotel in Alaska. It was the brainchild of James and John McCloskey, miners who struck it rich in the Canadian gold fields, and promoter Jules B. Caro who wanted their 46-room hostelry to be the equal of anything on the Pacific Coast. Steam heat was pumped into the rooms and there were separate grills for male and female guests. Sixteen rooms boasted their own bath - the height of early 20th century luxury. Eventually a rooftop electrical sign framed against the mountain backdrop was in place to call out to arriving ships, which were met by the Alaskan’s auto shuttle. In its hundred years the hotel was twice used as a brothel, once legally and once not-so legally, and skirted Prohibition as a “soda” serving cafe. The Alaskan retains its whimsical wooden Late Victorian period decorations and bay windows.

RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON KING STREET TOWARDS PUNCHBOWL STREET. ON THE LEFT IS... 

7. Seward Building
145 South Franklin Street

This wood-frame commercial structure is the handiwork of Emery Valentine, completed in 1913. The money men were Thomas Lyons, an Assistant Territorial Attorney General; R.E. Robertson, a former mayor and J.F. Muller, editor of the Alaska Daily Record. Look up to see the trio of wide “eyelid” display windows above the canopy.   

8. Triangle Building
108 South Franklin Street at the northwest corner of Front Street

Nels Gustav Nelson was born in Sweden and came to Tacoma around 1890 where he served with the National Bank of Tacoma for 24 years. Nelson arrived in Juneau in 1928 where he dabbled in real estate. He purchased the Bergmann Hotel on Third Street in 1931 and pulled down three wooden structures on this corner to erect a mixed-use concrete building which he named after himself but is now the Triangle Building.

TURN LEFT ON FRONT STREET TO SEE THE BUILDING NEXT DOOR.

9. First National Bank
228 Front Street

The First National Bank took its first deposits in Juneau in 1898 and moved to this location after a fire in 1925. It was the Hellenthal Building then, bankrolled in 1916 by brothers Simon and Jack Hellenthal. The Hellenthals hailed from Holland, Michigan and came to Juneau in the early 1900s along with another brother and a sister. Both Hellenthals were lawyers, Jack a counsel for the Alaska Treadwell Mines (the dominant gold producer in the area) and Simon a future Federal District Judge. The upper stories above the modernized ground floor are decorated with geometric shapes formed with inverted bricks.  

RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO FRANKLIN STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING NORTH.  

10. Gastineau Hotel
127 South Franklin Street

E.R. Jaeger of the Alaska Steam Laundry constructed the town’s first concrete hotel here in 1913, opening only one month after the Alaskan Hotel down the street. A fourth floor came along two years later and 30 more rooms were added in the 1930s.  

11. Elks Lodge
109 South Franklin Street

The Benevolent Protective Order of Elks were founded in New York City in 1868 in the theater district. At first they referred to themselves as the Jolly Corks. The Juneau Lodge, BPOE #420, was chartered in 1899 and built this clubhouse in 1908. The first Territorial Legislature of Alaska convened here in 1913. The Elks sold their building in 2006.  

12. Palace Theatre
112 South Franklin Street

This was the back part of the Hellenthal Building that slices through the block from Front Street. It was a 700-seat vaudeville theater when it debuted in 1916. John T. Spickett took over management the following year; he had first come to Juneau in 1896 as the leader of a theatrical troupe and came back to live, running hotels and theaters in between stints as the Postmaster of Juneau. Despite a run of ups and downs the stage lasted until 2001 when it simply couldn’t be revived. 

CONTINUE UP THE HILL ON FRANKLIN STREET TO THIRD STREET.  

13. MacKinnon Apartments
236 Third Street at northwest corner of Franklin Street

Lauchlin MacKinnon was born on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1866 and always maintained he walked across Canada to reach the gold fields of the Yukon. In 1897 Lockie, as he was always called, was one of the four prospectors who uncovered the Atlin gold fields. In 1925 MacKinnon built Juneau’s first modern apartment building here, three stories in a Georgian Revival style. Every unit was wired for electricity. The Mackinnins lived here until their deaths in the 1940s and the building continues to do the same residential duty today. 

TURN RIGHT ON THIRD STREET AND WALK UP THE HILL.

14. Bergmann Hotel
434 Third Street at northwest corner of Harris Street

Marie E, Bergmann, a native of Germany, built this hotel in 1913. Bergmann came to Juneau in 1896 after her husband died. She took up managing guest houses around town until she was able to build her dream hotel. When it opened it quickly became the go-to hotel in Juneau where guests could enjoy steam heat, electric lights and hot and cold water in every room. Marie Bergmann died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage on March 18, 1916 and was mourned in a front page obituary by the Alaskan Daily Empire as, “one of the best known and best loved women of the city. . .friend, comforter and counsellor, and often banker, to those in need.”

TURN LEFT ON HARRIS STREET. TURN LEFT ON FOURTH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON GOLD STREET AND GO TO FIFTH STREET.

15. Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
416 Fifth Street at northeast corner of Gold Street 

This wood frame sanctuary is the mother church of Catholicism in Juneau and is quite possibly the smallest cathedral in the United States. There is evidence that the first Alaska masses took place in the 1770s, conducted by priests traveling with the Spanish fleet. Catholic services were first held for Juneau miners by Father John Althoff in 1885 with the creation of a parish in the Silverbow Basin. The following year a house of worship was raised on this location; it would be replaced with the current church building in 1910. The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was consecrated in 1951. 

TURN LEFT ON FIFTH STREET. 

16. St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
326 Fifth Street

This is the oldest church is Juneau remaining in its original form, constructed by Serbian gold miners and Tlingit leaders in 1894. During Alaska’s time as a Russian colony from 1784 until 1867 there were no Russians in Juneau but the Tlingit people took to the Orthodox religion when it was introduced in the 1890s. The Orthodox Missionary Society sent architectural drawings and 200 silver rubles to build the wood frame church. Its distinctive octagonal shape symbolizes each day of the week and one for God; the church is topped with a small onion dome and Russian cross. Visitors stand in the cozy sanctuary during services. 

TURN RIGHT ON SEWARD STREET. FOLLOW THE STEPS UP TO SIXTH STREET. AT THE TOP, ON YOUR LEFT, IS... 

17. Frances House
137 Sixth Street at southwest corner of Seward Street

Showing off elements of the Queen Anne and Shingle styles, this Victorian residence from 1898 presents the most dramatic roofline in Juneau. This was the part of the original Juneau townsite where the finest homes were built, known as Chicken Ridge, and the Frances House has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places as representative of those days. It was constructed by Jerry Eicherly who was the postmaster of Juneau and he sold it in 1911 to John Rustgard, a Territorial Attorney General for more than ten years. The property was condemned to clear space for a new school in 1927 but Frances Davis, a celebrated Juneau artist, bought it and hers sons executed a successful move of the house fifty feet to the east. Davis was born in London in 1855 where she painted religious icons for churches. She ventured to Juneau in 1891 and started creating landscape and wildlife paintings, becoming one of the first artists recognized beyond Alaska.  

PICK UP THE WOODEN STAIRWAY ACROSS THE STREET AND CLIMB UP TO SEVENTH STREET. ON YOUR RIGHT AT THE END IS...  

18. House of Wickersham
213 Seventh Street

This comfortable white frame house from 1898, typical of the sturdy, common-sense residential stock found in Juneau at the turn-of-the-century, was built by Frank Hammond who owned the Sheep Creek Mining Company but it moves into its second century of existence as a notable structure because James Wickersham used it as a retirement home. Wickersham was born on an Illinois farm in 1857 and despite a scrimpy school career was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1880. He lit out for Washington Territory and was sent to Alaska by Theodore Roosevelt in 1900 to be district judge for the newly created Third Judicial District. At the time the Third District covered some 300,000 square miles and boasted no roads and no public buildings. Making his rounds Wickersham brought the only law to gold rush towns like Nome and Eagle and Fairbanks. While traveling his circuit he also collected license fees from saloons and frontier businesses, the only funds to run his office since Congress made no appropriations for funds.    

In his spare time Wickersham mounted the first recorded attempt to climb Mount McKinley in 1903 but his expedition was stalled at 8,000 feet. It would be another ten years before the highest mountain on the North American continent would be conquered. After Wickersham resigned his post in 1908 he was elected as Alaska’s delegate to the United States Congress where he introduced the bill to create Mount McKinley National Park.Wickersham was also behind the formation of the Alaska Territorial Legislature, the Alaska Railroad, and the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. He sponsored the first Alaska Statehood Bill in 1916. Wickersham moved here in 1928 and the house remained in the family until 1984 when the state bought it to operate as a museum. In 1949, the Alaska Territorial Legislature honored James Wickersham by anointing his birthday, August 24, as Wickersham Day. Nonetheless, despite four productive decades in Alaska, after his death in 1939 his ashes were shipped down to Tacoma, Washington and interred there.

FACING THE WICKERSHAM HOUSE, TURN RIGHT. AS SEVENTH STREET BENDS RIGHT AND BECOMES GOLDBELT AVENUE LOOK FOR THE STAIRCASE ON THE LEFT AT EIGHTH STREET. GO DOWN THE STEPS, CROSS OVER DIXON STREET, PICK UP THE NEXT FLIGHT ACROSS TO THE LEFT AND GO DOWN AGAIN TO REACH...    

19. Alaska Governor’s Mansion
716 Calhoun Street

William Howard Taft signed the Presidential Executive Order to construct a territorial governor’s mansion in Alaska in 1910. Armed with $40,000 and plans from the office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, James Knox Taylor, workers got underway on the Colonial Revival house which was finished in 1912. Walter Eli Clark, the last Governor of the District of Alaska and the first Governor of the Alaska Territory, was the first to move his family into the official government residence. Clark was a journalist by trade and got the job because he had briefly prospected for gold in Nome and had traveled through the District which was enough to convince President Taft that he knew Alaska. Alaskans, however, always considered Clark an outsider and despite passing many progressive laws he resigned in 1913 and promptly moved to Charleston, West Virginia. Since then nine territorial governors and 11 state governors have padded around the 35-room mansion, although not always happily. Sarah Palin was notable for her dislike of the place and restricted her time here to public functions.

TURN LEFT AND FOLLOW CALHOUN STREET DOWN THE HILL AND BACK INTO DOWNTOWN. BEAR RIGHT AS IT JOINS DIXON STREET TO BECOME 4TH STREET AND CONTINUE AS IT BENDS LEFT TO REACH MAIN STREET. ON THE CORNER ON YOUR LEFT IS...

20. Juneau Memorial Library/City Museum
114 West Fourth Street at northwest corner of Main Street

On January 3, 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the proclamation bringing official statehood to Alaska 92 years after William Seward purchased the territory from Russia. The new 49-star flag was raised for the first time on July 4, 1959 at this site, which was the Juneau Memorial Library, in front of a crowd of 3,000 citizens - about half the town population. Hawaii joined the party a few months later so very few 49-star flags were ever manufactured - look up to see one flying here. The library, that was constructed in 1951, is now the City Museum and the flag-raising is commemorated as the Alaska Statehood Site. You can find twenty totem poles around Juneau, perhaps you noticed the one on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion. This one is known as the Four Story Totem and was created in 1940 by Haida carver John Wallace. 

ACROSS MAIN STREET IS... 

21. Alaska State Capitol
northwest corner of Main and 4th streets

Although it looks as if they are processing insurance claims inside this six-story, brick-and-concrete rectangular block it is, in fact, the capitol of America’s largest state. Its lack of grandiosity is in part due to the ongoing grumblings about relocating the state capital. The first Alaska State Legislature convened in the Elks Hall in 1913 on Franklin Street and began a peripatetic existence for the next twenty years, adjourning in halls and offices around town. That changed with the construction of this building on plans drawn by the architectural office of the United States Treasury in 1931. Called the Federal and Territorial Building, it housed a federal courthouses and post office until statehood in 1959. Aside from a dressing of Indiana limestone on the lower floors, the only clue to its lofty status is a portico of marble columns framing a bronze-encrusted Art Deco entrance on 4th Street.

TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET.

22. The Windfall Fisherman 
Dimond Courthouse, east side of Main Street between 3rd and 4th streets

Wisconsin born and educated, R.T. “Skip” Wallen brought his zoology degree to Alaska in the 1960s where he had spent summers in commercial fishing with his uncle. He found work as a research biologist but was sketching animals in his spare time. His art work snared the attention of his bosses who made him staff artist. By 1967 Wallen was a full-time artist helming his own gallery in downtown Juneau. The Windfall Fisherman, a life-sized brown bear, was his first attempt at sculpture, commissioned in 1984 to celebrate Alaska’s first 25 years of statehood. Wallen’s monumental bronzes are now found in front of important buildings around the world. 

TURN LEFT ON THIRD STREET. TURN RIGHT ON SEWARD STREET.    

23. Behrends Bank
234 Seward Street at southwest corner of Third Street

Bernard M. Behrends was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1862 and sailed to America in 1878 with his family. He made his way to Alaska in 1887 to look for gold but wound up running a store for future Governor of Alaska, John G. Bray. By 1892 he was running his own general store in Juneau, which was located across the street. In 1896 when the Bank of Juneau went under Behrends jumped into the banking business. He built this vault in 1914 to house his operations. Now a branch of Key Bank, the elegant stuccoed building has recently received a facelift in a modernization.    

24. Goldstein Building
130 Seward Street at southwest corner of First Street

Charles Goldstein was the town’s leading merchant from 1885 to 1929. He owned a number of buildings in Juneau and this was his flagship, five stories of reinforced concrete erected in 1914. The Goldstein Emporium department store operated on the ground floor while office space was rented out upstairs. One of the earliest tenants was the Alaska Territorial government as the second and third sessions of the legislature conducted business here. Radio station KINY went on the air from the Goldstein Building on May 31, 1935, broadcasting to the Alaska Panhandle. Another Depression-era business operating in the Goldstein Building was a Tom Thumb golf course, as the craze for miniature golf was known in the 1930s. Fire crippled the building in 1939 and it was not rebuilt until after World War II. 

25. Valentine Building
119 Front Street at northeast corner of Seward Street

Emery Valentine began his serendipitous life in Michigan on the Indiana border in 1858. His family crossed the Great Plains to homestead in Colorado when he was ten and Emery went to work in the mines. An accident cost him a leg, sending him into an apprenticeship as a jeweler. Valentine ran a string of stores across Colorado and Montana until 1886 when he headed for a life in the Alaska Territory. He bought land from Joe Juneau and opened a jewelry store. Away from the shop Valentine organized the Juneau Volunteer Fire Department and served the town as mayor in the early 1900s. Working from architectural pattern books, Valentine also constructed several buildings in downtown Juneau. Front Street at the time was at the edge of the Gastineau Channel in those days and Valentine was one of the first to fill in the beach and install docks. His Valentine Building, which is a textbook example of commercial frontier architecture, was raised in 1904 and spread out in 1913 to reach Seward Street. Beautifully maintained, look up to see the Corinthian pilasters that separate the band of windows and the ornate scrollwork under the overhanging cornice.   

CONTINUE TO THE WATERFRONT AT MARINE WAY AND TURN LEFT.

26. City Hall
155 South Seward Street at Marine Way

The cites on opposite sides of the Gastineau Channel, Juneau and Douglas, merged in 1970 to form theCity and Borough of Juneau. This is the home of the municipal government; the mural is a creation of local artist Bill Ray and depicts the Tlingit mythology of creation in which Raven discovers mankind in a clam shell.

CONTINUE ON MARINE WAY TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.