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Click here to view the current meeting agenda, meeting minutes and other information about the Girdwood Board of Supervisors on the GBOS web page at the Municipality of Anchorage web site.
From Glacier City to Girdwood
Girdwood, originally named Glacier City, was founded as a gold mining town at the turn of the century with several gold claims being staked on Crow Creek and the Virgin and California Creek drainages. As the number of miners increased, a supply camp arose that also supplied a trail stop on the route between Seward and Ship Creek which is now Anchorage. James Girdwood was an Irish immigrant and linen merchant with four gold claims on Crow Creek. He later became the namesake for our mountain community.
Though founded as a mining town, the development of Girdwood was spurred by railroad construction begun by the Federal Government in 1915. The little town boomed with new businesses. Mining in the upper Crow Creek area continued into the late 1930's when mine closures by a World War II presidential order made Girdwood a near ghost town. In 1949, Girdwood again flourished as construction began on the Seward Highway connecting the seaport of Seward to Anchorage. In 1954, eleven local men formed the Alyeska Ski Corporation along with the beginnings of the hard-earned dream of a first-class ski resort. In 1960, the first chair lift and a day lodge was built. Francoise de Gunzburg, a Frenchman and a member of the Rothschild Banking family managed to secure a used chair lift from France that was dismantled, shipped to Alaska and rebuilt at Alyeska.
Tragedy struck on Good Friday in 1964. An earthquake with the magnitude of 9.2 dropped the coastal edges along the Turnagain Arm 8 to 10 feet! As a result, the town site of Girdwood moved 2 1/2 miles up the valley to the present location. In 1967, the resort was sold to Alaska Airlines. Chris von Imhof, then the Director of Tourism for the State of Alaska, was hired to run the resort. The Nugget Inn, the original hotel, was built and a second chair lift was constructed on the upper mountain.
In October 1980, Seibu Corporation purchased Alyeska Resort and invested heavily in its development, including new chair lifts and a 60 passenger aerial tramway. Furthermore, Seibu built The Alyeska Prince Hotel, a luxurious 300 + room hotel, which opened in August of 1994. Late in 2006, the ski area and hotel were sold to John Byrne III. Under his ownership, ski lifts have been replaced, increasing lift capacity and improving efficiency; furnishings and amenities within the Hotel Alyeska have also been updated. In addition, new elements have been added such as development of downhill biking trails.
Present day Girdwood consists of a diverse population of outdoor enthusiasts, local businesses, services and Anchorage commuters. The town has an exemplary public school for kids from kindergarten through 8th grade, modern playground facilities at the Little Bears Park, numerous developed and rustic hiking and biking trails transecting the valley. Girdwood has much to offer the Alaskan visitor all year-round. Complete with a grocery store, library, post office, a variety of B&B's and shops, restaurants and bars, Girdwood can supply any need any time of the year.