The Tent City - 1915
The tent city, erected hastily on the muddy banks of Ship Creek by hundreds of hopeful job seekers,
lasted only a few months, from April to August of 1915.
Conditions were far from tolerable.
Contamination of drinking water was a major
concern. Furthermore, the government needed the
Ship Creek flats for docks, shipping, railroad yards,
and tracks. The president of the United States
ordered a townsite to be carved out of the forest on
the southern bluff overlooking Ship Creek and issued
orders to evacuate the tent city by the middle of
If you look directly below you to the right of the railway station, you will
see the site where at 2 p.m. on July 10, 1915, Andrew Christensen, a federal
agent in charge of the townsite sales, climbed onto the auction block. He
was surrounded by an estimated crowd of 2,000 people. They came from
other Alaska towns and all over the country. Many were recent immigrants
from eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
Christensen gave an "inspiring" speech about a rosy future for the new
frontier town. To encourage sobriety and good behavior among construction
workers, the rules of the townsite sale stated that all lots would be
forfeited if used for gambling, prostitution, or the manufacture and sale
Bidding competition was lively. Lots were priced between $25 and $400.
Some lots went for more than four times their appraised value. During the
next two days, Christensen recorded 655 sales for a total of $148,000.
Once the orders to evacuate were given, the tent city was hauled out of the
mud and onto the bluff.
Thousands of people came here to build the government railroad. At first, horses and
wagons slogged through the mud flats of the Ship Creek basin hauling supplies and
passengers from the edge of Cook Inlet into the tent city. Soon tracks were extended
to meet the sea.
This panoramic view of the original tent city of Anchorage was taken in 1915, the first year of the
city's history. The photographer set up his camera on the bluff directly across the creek basin from
where you are now standing.