Juneau, a wild history of its beginning
Let's take ourselves back to 1880 when no real rich deposits of gold had been found before this time in the last frontier. George Pilz, a man with financial backing from San Francisco, California, was living in Sitka, the newly transferred capital of the Alaska Territory. Sending teams of men outfitted in canoes with several weeks worth of provisions, each team was assigned to a different geographical area within Southeast with one goal; to prospect and find gold. Chief Kowee, Joe Juneau, and Richard Harris set out for the Gastineau Channel. The details of this quest make me smile, as Juneau and Harris were old friends from the Cassiar in British Columbia and had traded their ammo, provisions, and blankets for alcohol amongst the Tlingit Tribes during their three week journey. Chief Kowee had been promised 100 Hudson Bay Blankets if he could find the highly sought after mineral. As was his prerogative, he all but dragged Juneau & Harris up Gold Creek leading the way to one of the biggest discoveries of gold in North American History. The men packed up and headed back to Sitka to report their findings. However the story gets a little vague, rumored that Juneau & Harris wanted to bypass Pilz and Sitka, and head straight for Vancouver, BC to claim the location for themselves. The story goes they were held at gunpoint and made to go back to Pilz to honor their agreement.
Within days, a turn around trip was in order to begin work, staking load claims, and setting up infrastructure. Less than ten men spent the first grueling winter in wall tents counting down the days until Gold Creek thawed and they could continue panning. The first handful of years in Juneau were unreal, they had actually named the new camp Harrisburg, after Richard Harris who was the only literate man of the bunch. Naturally taking over the town ledger, he may or may not have given himself a bigger slice of pie than he was leading on. The accusations caught on wildly, and one drunken night, rumor has it the town met at the local bar on Seward Street. In all the madness and chaos, Joe Juneau thought he'd settle the people down with a round of whiskey, only to his surprise they voted right then and there to change the name to Juneau as a way to stick it to Harris. And it worked. From that moment on we have been the city of Juneau, and this moment is a total representation of how Alaskan's get things done. We voted, you're in, and you're out.
The first ten years of Juneau's existence were built on the backs of eager and desperate gold miners. Coming north from the West Coast, these men and women gave up everything in search of riches and glory. And, because Alaska was a US Territory at the time, no real laws or jurisdiction existed. The town operated under what they called "Miner's Law," rules created by the miners themselves. In fact Juneau is the only place in the US that had such laws. The closest enforcement power was US Navy Officer Rockwell, located 90 miles south in Sitka. His only orders from Washington DC were to keep everyone alive. With that said he pretty much turned a blind eye to the chaos happening in the newly established gold town. My favorite Miner's Law was that for every brothel, a church must be erected, at one point there were 56 churches haha.
In 1906 President Roosevelt ordered the Territory Capital be moved from Sitka to Juneau, as gold was pouring from the mountains. With this move came the real Law, and things began to settle. One of the oldest homes in Juneau is the Wickersham House which still stands today as a registered Historical Site and now owned by the Alaska State Parks Division. This house was originally built by Frank Hammond in 1898, the Superintendent of the Sheep Creek Mining Company who wanted a suitable home for such an official. The house traded hands with other big names in the Gold Industry and eventually was bought by Judge Wickersham, a federally appointed judge to handle the mayhem of liquor licenses, gambling, gold claims, and more in all of Alaska. It suited him well as this house sits high on the ridge in downtown Juneau, overlooking and overseeing the town below. Wickersham had a major influence on legislation within the Territory and even introduced the idea of statehood 46 years before it came to be. After his death the house and its belongings were passed down to a fortunate niece who recognized Wickersham's importance and began giving tours. This house is amazing, still filled with original furniture, and Wickersham's belongings, it takes you right back to the late 20's, my favorite era. When you visit, you must see the entertainment room, the red velvet couches, ancient piano, and the gramophone. No doubt a house used for entertaining.
Juneau Style in the 1930's
Looking back on films from the Juneau area, women wore fur trimmed trench coats with thick collars, heavily trimmed cuffs, decorative hats, heels, and handbags. Women also wore midi skirts, In Alaska since culture moved slowly, there was a major Art Deco influence in the jewelry. Mixed with Tlingit and Russian influence it made for a style all of it's own.
Nowadays, Juneau has become quite the mountain town! Especially when there is enough snow accumulation to let this sleepy city play. Once the ships have gone, most of South Franklin Street closes its doors as they move south to follow the ships, leaving the tourist district feeling quite lonely. Thankfully Alaskan's know how to get by during the dark months.
Here's my guide on what to do during the winter months in Alaska's Capital City.
Juneau offers a completely different menu during the winter. This is perhaps the best time of year to test Juneau's top chefs. Don't get me wrong, summer will always be my favorite, but there are so many food options in Juneau you really do have to split it up seasonally!
- In Bocca Al Lupo - An Italian restaurant whose Chef happened to win the National Seafood Contest like it was nbd. The salmon alfredo and garden fresh veggies are to die for, a great wine selection, and a wood fired oven for pizza!
- Saffron - Family and home style Indian comfort food perfect for winter months when all you need to do is go for a delicious warm meal and a glass of wine with an easy, laid back vibe.
- Salt - My favorite for French Onion Soup! A great up-scale vibe, dress to impress and you will be.
- Rookery - For lunch, I could literally go every day for their ever changing, always vegetarian soup! And for dinner, expect a different atmosphere, one for wine and cheese and delightful desserts.
- Taqueria - Pit stop for chips and guacamole, beer, and tacos!
- V's Cellar Door - The ultimate low-key hangout/incognito spot. The Fusion Nachos and a glass of wine are all your taste buds ever need.
- Zerelda's - Lunch time heaven with homemade pastries, salads, sandwiches and tasty soups. The only place worthy of eating at in the Mendenhall Valley, and perfect if you have a layover at the airport! For dinner dress up, as the menu picks up and you're in for a delicious meal!
- Gonzo - Located in Auke Bay and the ultimate breakfast spot with a view! Sweet and savory waffles include everything from fresh berries, veggies, to eggs and specialty meats.
- The Alaskan - Thursday Night's are open mic night! One of my favorite people watching bars, grab a spot upstairs and watch this local scene go down.
- The Narrows - On the corner of Front and Franklin for an eclectic vibe and killer specialty cocktails! This is one of the oldest locations in Juneau to be pouring alcohol, it'll no doubt put a grin on your face.
- Amalga Distillery - Continue up Franklin to the corner of Second Street and enjoy some locally brewed gin and soon to be whiskey! This is a fun environment and one of Juneau's newest scenes, they use traditional techniques and combine art with taste.
- The Viking - For when things have gone beyond control, head here and venture to the back near bar close, if you dare.
The best time to shop is the last weekend in November, and the first Friday in December when they close Front Street to traffic and bring out the DJ!
- Boheme - Women's boutique, amazing accessories and dresses for any occasion.
- Kindred Post - A gem of a post office, this place has knick knacks and amazing jewelry!
- Juneau Artists Gallery - Locally handmade jewelry and photographs from around Southeast, Alaska. Find unique earings for roughly $40.
- Shoefly - Best shoe store in Southeast! Find cute boots, sandals, heels and handbags! Shoe prices range from $30- $500 depending on your taste and impusle needs. You will not be disapointed!
- Annie Kails - A neat store that sells handmade home goods, jewelry, and more. The ultimate holiday stop.
- Trove - A year-round store full of everything good! Find one-of-a-kind items, great for gifts.
- Public Market - The Capital City's market weekend and bazaar. Great for holiday shopping, handmade jewelry, and all sorts of great finds from makers around the Pacific Northwest.
- First Friday - The first Friday in December and a fun way to really get into the holiday spirit! The City closes Front Street, and shops pair up with local artists for a gallery walk. Complete with beverages at each stop and a DJ...!
- Wearable Art - Typically the second weekend in February. This event is everything! A huge push and inspiration behind the Resolute! Whether you're in the audience or in the show, it is unreal!
Other things to do
- Eaglecrest Ski Area - The best little ski area in the world! Home to some beautiful backcountry and hardly any line wait time. Even if it's raining in the city, there's a good chance it's snowing up at Eaglecrest.
- Snowshoe - The best snowshoeing is up on the Dan Moller Cabin Trail, Spaulding Meadows, John Muir Cabin trail, and Pederson Creek Cabin Trail. Follow the link to see how to Snowshoe and Ski all before lunch!
- Ice skate - When conditions are cool enough, Twin Lakes, Auke Lake, and Mendenhall Lake are great for ice skating outdoors. If you're unsure head to the Treadwell Arena in Douglas.
- Explore the Ice Caves - Wait for the ice to freeze on the Mendenhall Lake then cross over to the left face, follow the link below to see details.
What to Wear
Plan for slushy conditions. The average temperature for this time of the year can be anything from five to 40 degrees Fahrenheit which means some days you'll wake up to clear and cold, other days five inches of snow, and sometimes the streets will be totally cleared with absolutely no snow in sight! So you have to always be prepared! The goal is to first stay dry, then warm!
- Good Boots - Xtratuf, Sorel, Bogg work well because they're waterproof.
- Wool - anything wool will keep you nice and warm without getting too hot.
- Hat - a beanie works well, or something with a brim that won't get blown away!
- Down jacket or vest - the majority of the time you'll still need a water-resistant shell.
Juneau in the winter season is filled with events and parties, now is the time to show off your winter style!
- Structured Jacket - make sure it's a warm one! I usually will throw a down jacket over top of it anyway.
- Beautifully designed dresses or rompers - Always layer with tights or leggings.
- Fitted tops - Juneau has casual style, so having great tops to pair with denim is a perfect mix.
- Jeans - Obvisouly I'm partial to DL1961 denim, because they are so versatile, comfortable and great looking.
- Booties - Make sure you can wear socks with them!
For this Photoshoot
These photos were taken at the Wickersham House in Downtown Juneau, Alaska. This house is open seasonally for tours from May through September. Whether you're a local or a visitor this house is a must see! Check out 12 Hrs in Downtown Juneau, Alaska for a guide of what to do in the summer months!
I wanted to create a look that fit with the entertainment room of this beautiful house. Much of this house still has furniture from the late 20's, my favorite era for its outfits and art deco design. Zoey Reva is one of my favorite designers and I felt her line would fit the bill. Lacey details fit for an extravagant party. So we played and explored this old home. Reveling in its grand history, design, and getting a glimpse of party life in the house's hay day. Hope you enjoy, and I hope you visit this house for yourself soon!
DeArmond, R. N. The Founding of Juneau. Color Press, 1980.
“Wickersham State Historic Site.” Wickersham State Historic Site, State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks & Recreation, dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/wickrshm.htm.
All photos were taken by Sydney Akagi Photography who is based out of Juneau, Alaska.
OUTFIT CHANGE ;D
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