Tag Archives: SS Nenana

S. S. Nenana

oie_22193644K9uupFSWFrom the September-October issue of Alaskan History Magazine:

At one period in Alaskan history, there were over 300 flat-bottomed sternwheelers navigating on the Yukon River and its tributaries. These sternwheelers were essential in the development of the history of Alaska. Of all these lifelines of the rivers, only one remains, the Steamer SS Nenana, located in Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. The wooden-hulled, western rivers-style steam sternwheel passenger boat Nenana is one of only three steam-powered passenger sternwheelers of any kind left in the U.S., and the only large wooden hulled sternwheeler. She is a living museum of history that must be preserved for perpetuity.

oie_22193533uv0oBLYkShe was built and operated by the Alaska Railroad. With the completion of the railroad from Seward to Fairbanks in 1923, a way to haul freight to the villages and towns was needed. On September 16, 1922, the War Department deactivated the steamers General Jeff C. Davis, and General J. Jacobs from the U.S. Army and made them available to the Alaska Railroad free of charge by Executive Order.

The article about the SS Nenana is by Patricia De Nardo Schmidt, who came to Alaska in 1959, growing up in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and living in Fairbanks since 1969. Patricia watched the history of Fairbanks being lost over the years as buildings were being demolished or falling into ruin and collapse, and when she heard the Steamer SS Nenana was closed to the public in March of 2018 and in danger of being demolished she knew she had to take action. Joining with others who had the same interest in saving the Alaskan steamship, the group Friends of SS Nenana was formed.

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SS Nenana being built, 1932. [1968-013-025 Bill Berry Coll. [Property Pioneers of AK Museum of Fairbanks.]

For more information about Friends of SS Nenana or how to get involved, go to their website (friendsofssnenana.com) or their Facebook page: Friends of SS Nenana. Donations to help support the SS Nenana can also be made through these sites or the North Star Community Foundation SS Nenana page (www.nscfundalaska.org/FSSN).

National Historic Landmark  https://www.nps.gov/places/nenana.htm

Sept:Oct cover smallThe Sept-Oct issue of Alaskan History Magazine, which also features articles about Josephine Crumrine’s sled dog menu covers for The Alaska Steamship Company, the unprecedented luxury cruise of railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman and his carefully selected passenger list of scientists and artists, the story of sea otters in the Aleutian Islands, the history of Alaska’s flag, and an excerpt from Josiah E. Spurr’s 1896 expedition to map and chart the interior of Alaska for the USGS.  The issue can be ordered from the Alaskan History Magazine website.

 

Rim of Red Water

oie_2117355x9JBAV1v“Out across those open turbulent waters in the Aleutian Islands, among the last to be explored by Europeans, is where Christopher Columbus, if he could have sailed farther, might have taken his three ships right off the edge of the Earth, somewhere west of Kodiak.”

Writer Tim Jones (The Last Great Race, Race Across Alaska, Keep the Round Side Down) brings a new perspective to Alaskan History Magazine with an excerpt from a book he’s been working on for a few decades, paralleling the life and importance of sea otters with the growth and history of Alaska. Beginning with the first inhabitants of the windswept rocky islands of the Aleutian chain, Jones traces the story over centuries, exploring the lives of the first people, who lived in harmony with the land and the creatures of the sea and honored the friendly, funny sea otters, and then contrasting that harshly with the relentless mayhem wrought by the men who came seeking only the sleek rich fur of the sea otters.

Sea Otter color“But those early explorers and later the merchants, ever restless, ever reaching out, were relentless in their searches for new lands and new riches, and as exploration spread it reached closer to the Aleutian Islands. Many of the early explorations, though not actually touching the islands, had a bearing on their future. And the sea otters became the valued objects that drew the first Europeans to Aleutian and subsequently Alaskan shores.”

Tim Jones has uploaded the entire text of his still-unfinished book – with illustrations – to his blog, Alaska With Attitude, and the history he writes is a fascinating, surprising, and quite enjoyable romp through a part of our past which can be as mysterious and elusive as the fog-shrouded Aleutians where it take place.

The Sept-Oct issue, with this article and many others, including the story of the SS Nenana, the Last Lady of the River, by Fairbanks writer and historian Patricia De Nardo Schmidt, can be ordered from the Alaskan History Magazine website.

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Aleutian Sea Otter Hunters, by Charles Melville Scammon in The Marine Mammals of the North-Western Coast of North America, Described and Illustrated; Together With an Account of the American Whale-Fishery (1874)

Sept-Oct Issue

Sept:Oct cover smallThe September-October issue of Alaskan History Magazine features a bounty of the Last Frontier’s colorful past, from the endearing sled dog artwork of Josephine Crumrine’s menu covers for The Alaska Steamship Company to the unprecedented luxury cruise of railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman and his carefully selected passenger list of scientists and artists.

An excerpt from a book in progress by noted Alaskan author Tim Jones highlights the importance of a key player in Alaska’s history: the sea otter; and the featured article for this issue is the story of the SS Nenana, the Last Lady of the River, by Fairbanks writer and historian Patricia De Nardo Schmidt.

(River Boat Nenana)

SS Nenana

Other articles in this third issue include the history of Alaska’s flag, and an excerpt from Josiah E. Spurr’s 1896 expedition to map and chart the interior of Alaska for the USGS. His unvarnished descriptions of the Birch Creek Mining District are among the first ever recorded.

Wrapping up this issue are brief highlights from half a dozen classic books on Alaska’s history, a guide to some of the sources used in researching this issue, and a little something extra, a timeline. A short timeline relevant to the articles and content in each issue will be included in the magazine, while a larger, more comprehensive timeline is featured here on the website for Alaskan History Magazine. Click on the link in the menubar above to access the complete timeline, which will be expanded with each new issue of the magazine.

Balto and Toughie

“Balto and Toughie,” by Alaskan artist Josephine Crumrine

 

 

AAHP Most Endangered List

Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 8.58.55 PMThe Alaska Association for Historic Preservation has released its annual list of the ten most endangered historic properties in the state, and included this year are the 4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, the Jesse Lee Home in Seward, and the photogenic Eldred Rock Lighthouse near Haines. The Alaska Association for Historic Preservation annually helps several of the properties on the list get started with preservation work and leverage funding from other sources.

The sternwheeler Nenana was selected for inclusion. Patricia De Nardo Schmidt is President of the Friends of the SS Nenana, one of only three steam-powered passenger sternwheelers of any kind left in the U.S., and the only large wooden sternwheeler.

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Sternwheeler Nenana

Built in Nenana in 1933 for the Alaska Railroad, for service on the Yukon, Nenana, and Tanana Rivers, the Nenana opened up much of the territory of interior Alaska long before roads could be built. The Nenana carried military cargoes during World War II including lend-lease aircraft on the way to Russia. Retired in 1955, the SS Nenana now resides at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 5, 1989.

The most endangered historic properties program started in 1991 and helps get public attention of cultural and architectural properties that are threatened. The complete list for 2019 includes:

Nenana Sternwheeler, Fairbanks
Eldred Rock Lighthouse, Haines vicinity
Coastal Archaeological Sites
Stevenson Hall (Sheldon Jackson School), Sitka
Leonhard Seppala House, Nome
4th Avenue Theatre, Anchorage
Government Hill Community Center, Anchorage
Pioneer School House, Anchorage
Bristol Bay Sailboats, Naknek, King Salmon, Egegik
Jesse Lee Home, Seward

To donate or learn more about the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation, contact Amber Sawyer at 907.929.9870 / akpreservation@gmail.com / http://www.aahp-online.net/

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The Bristol Bay salmon fleet circa 1948. (Ward Wells collection / Anchorage Museum)