Tales from the Trail: What’s in a Name? Anchorage

I’m always curious about how places get their names.  You can usually learn a little history about places from how they were named. Here’s one story of how Anchorage got its name.

The land that is now Anchorage was home to the Dena’ina Athabascan Indians who used it as a seasonal fishing camp.  White settlers moved into the area and eventually Alaska came to be owned by the US.  Transportation became a big concern for the handful of people who lived here.  Eventually in 1914, the federal government approved the building of a railroad in Alaska.  The area where Anchorage now sits was to serve as the construction base for the new railroad.

No one was really prepared for what happened next.  Practically overnight the area was flooded with hundreds of people seeking employment.  They built row upon row of white, box shaped tents to serve as buildings and the town came to be known as “Tent City.” It was also referred to as Alaska City and Ships Landing.

When the townspeople met to vote on the name for their new city, they chose Alaska City.  However, they soon learned that the US Postal Service had already named the town.  When the ships delivered mail to the railroad workers, they had to drop anchor in the deep water off shore and then shuttle the mail into shore by smaller boats.  This was due to the large amount of glacial silt in the inlet.  The post office had already named the town Anchorage because of the ships having to take anchorage off shore.  So, Anchorage officially became the town’s name.