Settlers arrived in Anchorage in 1915 in anticipation of finding employment in the construction of the Alaska Railroad. A city of tents grew along Ship Creek during the first summer, but the permanent city was built on a nearby bluff where downtown Anchorage now stands. The land was surveyed and auctioned by government officials.
The trains first ran in 1917, and the planned 478 miles from Seward to Fairbanks were completed in 1923, opening up the mineral-rich interior of Alaska for development.
In World War II, Anchorage's value as a military base was recognized, and its continuing importance has been an important contributor to the local economy ever since.
Anchorage is located on a peninsula jutting into the Cook inlet. Two arms of the ocean extend to the southeast (the Turnagain Arm) and northeast (The Knik Arm) from this point. Steep mountain sides, carved by glaciers, flank both sides of the Turnagain Arm, while the Knik Arm passes through the Matanuska Valley. Glacial silt and rock was deposited here at near sea-level to form the land where Anchorage now sits.
Captain James Cook is credited with the discovery of Anchorage and naming the "River Turnagain" in 1778.