Barnette's Landing Beautification Project
With no roads and sparse trails, the rivers were the highways in Alaska in the early 20th Century.
Historically, the area along the Chena River has been a gathering place for people. It's likely that
ages ago hunters and gatherers came to barter, to share ideas and to learn from one another.
E.T. Barnette landed just upriver in August, 1901, and his cabin and trading post were the beginnings
of what was to become a service and supply center and a community of families. The new settlement developed
quickly after news of the discovery of gold by Felix Pedro in July, 1902.
From the beginning there was a strong spirit of individualism and competitivness, yet the talents, skills
and business interests were somehow complimentary.
E.T. Barnette became the first Postmaster, commissioned in Seattle on May 4, 1903, with the Fairbanks
Post Office scheduled to receive mail 12 times a year. Steamboats brought most of the people and supplies
to Fairbanks in the early years. Work, lives, and survival, revolved around the steamboat seasons. The first
to arrive in June was full to capacity with freight and mail held-over from the previous fall. The last boat
in the fall carried people trying to escape the winter.
By November 10, 1903, when the city became incorporated, it was the largest log cabin town in the
world. There were about 500 houses and 1,200 people in the city and approximately 1,800 miners working
in the Tanana Valley. Thanks to Judge James Wickersham, the offices of federal officials, commissioner,
marshal, clerk of court, and recorder were all in Fairbanks. Gold production continued to rise, when at
its peak in 1909, millions had been produced, making Fairbanks one of the richest towns anywhere. The
city had grown to 3,500 residents and 15,000 miners.
In addition to the federal offices located here the town had many shops. The list included:
- seven saloons
- two stores
- one jewelry store
- two meat markets
- two cigar stores
- two tin shops
- one blacksmith shop
- two dry stores
- four hotels
- one machinery depot
- one hospital
- one newspaper
- four lawyers
- three large sawmills
- two laundries
- two barber shops
- four doctors
- two bath houses
- two carpenter shops
Many names of those early-day residents are familiar today as street names or historic landmarks.
Their descendants still live and work here. We are proud of their ancestors' courage, vision, and
determination, of what they accomplished by overcoming harsh conditions and adversities. These people
together created a strong, thriving settlement and then this city, whose spirit and interdependence
helped it withstand floods, fires, earthquakes, and the extreme climate. For some it was pure
cussedness and determination. For others it was a desire to make things better and more beautiful.
Together these qualities and our strength of character set us apart from many other places. Our
community draws strength from the presence of state and local governments, Native Corporations, large
and small businesses, the military, its schools, and non-profit organizations.
The Tanana Valley boasts the largest gold mining operation in North America today, the only
operating coal mine in Alaska, the service center for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and continues to be
the supply and transportation hub for the Interior's communities and industry. The
University of Alaska
began as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in 1917, and has grown to be a
respected academic and global research institution.
Barnette's Landing Beautification Project began with a need, and a dream by some who believed we
could create a lasting tribute to the first 100 years of Fairbanks as a city and as a way to honor
our home. Dr. William R. Wood played a key role in getting this project started. We are grateful
to him and so many others who came before and after him, who together are the dreamers and doers ~
contributing then, now and in the future to make Fairbanks a great place to live, work and raise a
We dedicate this riverfront beautification to the indomitable spirit that still exists in our town
today as we strive to bring the river back to a place of honor in the heart of our town.
Dedicated August 26, 2003
Project coordinated by Festival Fairbanks, Inc.
Constructed by Great Northwest, Inc.
Landscape Architect, Gordy Schlosser
Ironwork by Chad Dietz