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25 Things You Should Know About Anchorage

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Situated at the end of the Cook Inlet, where coastal lowland gradually rises up to the Chugach Mountains, Anchorage is a city on the edge of civilization. And that’s exactly what locals and visitors love about it. Here are a few facts about this northern outpost.  1. Before Russia owned the territory and Seward had his folly, the original inhabitants of Anchorage were the Dena’ina, a matrilineal tribe of Athabascan Indians that had hunted and fished in the area for more than 1000 years.   2. Anchorage didn’t begin as a port or mining town but rather as a railroad hub. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson authorized construction of the 500-mile-long Alaska Railroad, stretching from coastal Seward up to gold-rich Fairbanks. By 1915 a tent city for rail workers had gone up in the muddy land around Ship Creek, where the railroad company’s headquarters were located.  [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_full_width","fid":"185400","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"784","title":"","width":"620"}}]]  3. In 1915, the federal government outlawed gambling, prostitution and the sale of alcohol in Anchorage. Which of course meant that all these things flourished in the frontier town. As one fed-up official noted, “The only thing more prevalent than the fine dust which clogs the air is the raw whiskey with which they wash it down.”     4. Early Anchorage was filled with gamblers, swindlers and assorted other opportunists. The most brazen of them all, though, was Joe Spenard, a cigar-chomping businessman who brought the first car to Anchorage—a bright yellow Model T—and turned it into the city’s one and only taxi service. He also cleared out 160 acres of forest preserve around Jeter Lake, which he renamed Lake Spenard, and built a popular dance hall. Federal officials were none too pleased by any of this, but before they could crack down, the dance hall went up in flames and Spenard skipped town. In all, Spenard spent just over a year in Anchorage, but his legacy lives on in the Spenard neighborhood of Anchorage.   5. The man credited with turning the Alaska Railroad into a successful enterprise was a hard-charging Swedish colonel with a penchant for green suits. Otto Ohlson spent decades managing railways throughout Europe and America before coming to Alaska in 1928. In addition to improving the railroad itself, Ohlson ran successful campaigns to draw farmers into Alaska’s interior, thereby increasing agricultural demand for the railroad. To monitor progress along the rail line, Ohlson had an automobile specially outfitted to drive on the tracks. In at least one instance, the car met with the business end of a locomotive.  6. Realizing Anchorage’s strategic location as a staging and refueling hub, the U.S. built two major military bases there in the early 1940s: Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson. Between 1940 and 1945, the city’s population jumped from 2,500 to 70,000. 7. At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, the strongest recorded earthquake in North American history (and the second most powerful ever recorded) struck Anchorage. Measured at magnitude 9.2, the quake buckled highways, collapsed roofs, and created landslides that claimed dozens of homes in the city’s Turnagain neighborhood. The Four Seasons apartment complex in downtown Anchorage was reduced to rubble. All told, the Good Friday Earthquake lasted nearly four minutes and claimed 115 lives.    8. Alaska’s early growing pains as a state caused many to call for the capital to relocate from Juneau to Anchorage. The publisher of the Anchorage Times, Robert Atwood, mounted campaigns that helped introduce ballot measures in 1960 and 1962. Both measures failed, but in 1974 voters approved relocation of the capital to Willow, just north of Anchorage. When the $1 billion funding proposal came in two years later, though, voters rejected it.  9. It’s a lot bigger than you think: Anchorage’s 1961 square miles place it squarely between Rhode Island and Delaware in terms of size.  10. If you’re driving through Anchorage, be on the lookout for moose. There are approximately 250 that live in the area during the summer, and more than 1000 that take up residence during the winter. Drivers kill more than 100 of them each year.   11. The city is also home to around 250 black bears and 60 grizzly bears. Sightings are a part of daily life for residents, though harmful encounters are rare. A few years ago, scientists tracked nine area bears using GPS collars, and the resulting data shows that Anchorage—just like the rest of Alaska—truly is bear country.
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12. There’s great salmon fishing right in downtown Anchorage. During late spring and summer months, anglers line up along Ship Creek as they try to land king and silver salmon. It’s not uncommon to see workers rush out during their lunch breaks, throw on a pair of waders, and cast their lines out.  13. Anchorage is located within a nine-and-a-half-hour flight of 90 percent of the world’s population. That’s made it a leading air freight hub, with nearly six billion pounds of cargo ferried through Ted Stevens International Airport each year.  14. Getting into and out of Anchorage by car is pretty simple, as there’s only one route: Highway 1. South of Anchorage it’s known as the Seward Highway, and has a reputation as one of the most scenic drives in America.  
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15. During the height of the summer solstice in June, Anchorage basks in up to 22 hours of daylight every day. To celebrate, businesses stay open late and festivities stretch into the wee hours. The Anchorage Zoo extends its hours until midnight, while the city’s minor league baseball team, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, start their games at 10 p.m.      16. The flipside of that geo-celestial coin comes every winter when Anchorage copes with less than six hours of sunlight each day. But hey, at least it’s not far northern Barrow, Alaska, which has 67 days of complete darkness.  17. Keen on seeing the Northern Lights but not willing to stay up past your bedtime? Not to worry. Hotels in and around Anchorage, like the Hotel Alyeska, offer a special wake-up call should the winter sky light up.   18. Anchorage is quite the caffeinated city. It has the second most coffee shops per capita of any city in the U.S. (only Seattle has more). Espresso stands are a dime a dozen, and local chains like Kaladi Brothers have taken off in the past few years. Since 2011, according to the state’s labor department, the number of jobs in the coffee industry has jumped 20 percent.   19. Like most of Alaska, Anchorage has no sales tax. And if locals have anything to say about it, there won’t be any in the near future. In 2001 and 2005, nearly three-fourths of voters rejected sales tax bills of 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively.  20. It’s a premier destination for skiing—cross-country skiing, that is. Anchorage has more than 100 miles of tracks and frequently hosts international competitions. Trails range from a few miles to nearly 40 miles long, with numerous outfitters offering rental equipment to visitors. Just be on the lookout for moose and bear. 21. The Iditarod, the legendary 1000-mile dogsled race that starts in Anchorage every March and ends in Nome, began as a supply trail to mining camps and remote villages. In 1925, teams of mushers used the trail to transport vital medical supplies to Nome during a diphtheria outbreak, making headlines across the globe. It took 40 years and the advocacy of a local historian, though, for the world-famous sled dog race to begin.  
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22. Forget confusing names or acronyms. Anchorage’s public transit system’s official name is the “People Mover.” Started in 1974, it runs 14 routes throughout the city, with an average daily ridership of around 14,000.  23. In 1966, a local grocer named Jack Snyder won a catchphrase contest put on by the Crown Zellerbach paper company. The prize was $3,000 or a baby elephant, and to the surprise of many, Snyder chose the latter. After the elephant arrived, Snyder put her up at a local ranch that had a heated stall. Annabelle, as the elephant came to be known, was a popular draw for locals, so in 1968 the city incorporated land near the ranch as the city’s first zoo, with Annabelle as the star attraction.   24. Feeling hungry? Humpy’s Alehouse offers Alaska’s most formidable food challenge, the Kodiak Arrest. It includes 14 inches of reindeer sausage, three pounds of crab legs, crab nuggets and a host of side dishes. Take it down in less than an hour and you’ll get a free T-shirt (not to mention massive indigestion). 25. Anchorage has a very active competitive beard and moustache community. So naturally, the city played host to the World Beard and Moustache Championships in 2009. The event saw the American competitors win 12 out of 18 categories, shifting dominance away from the once-mighty German contingent. The event’s grand champion, David Traver, won the freestyle competition (yes, really) by fashioning his beard in the shape of a snowshoe.
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This Just In
Kentucky City Lets Residents Pay Parking Tickets With Canned Goods
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Racking up parking fines? If you live in Lexington, Kentucky, you can pay off your tickets with canned food donations.

ABC 36 reports that, for the fourth year in a row, the city's “Food for Fines” program will help stock the shelves of God’s Pantry Food Bank—a member of Feeding America—throughout the holiday season. Beginning today, the city’s local parking authority is allowing residents with outstanding citations to donate preserved goods in lieu of cash through December 15.

Ten cans will get residents a $15 credit on any parking citation. And for drivers with a drawer-full of tickets, they can bring as many cans as they can carry to earn a $15 credit per 10-can donation. (Yes, even past due citations are eligible.)

"During the previous three years we have collected 24,500 cans of food, which is the equivalent of 12 tons or 16,000 meals,” Parking Authority executive director Gary Means said in a press release.

If you're planning on donating, make sure to check the date: Expired items won't be accepted.

[h/t ABC 36]  

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Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY
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Art
A New Exhibit Celebrates New York City's Public Art Legacy
Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY
Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Walking through New York City could be likened to strolling through a smog-filled gallery. For the past 50 years and more, artists have brightened its streets, subways, and buildings with vibrant mosaics, installations, sculptures, and murals. To celebrate their creativity—and the pioneering public art initiatives that made these works possible—the Museum of the City of New York has created a new exhibit, "Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art."

"Art in the Open" features over 125 works by artists such as Kara Walker, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein, among others, all of which once graced the city's five boroughs. The exhibit explores the social and historical motivation behind outdoor art, and also connects it with overarching urban themes.

“The ubiquity of public art is a big part of what makes New York City so special,” said Museum of the City of New York director Whitney Donhauser in a statement. “From parks to the subways, from Staten Island to the Bronx, creativity is all around us. Experiencing the wide variety of art created for public spaces gathered together within the walls of a museum offers visitors a new lens for appreciating and understanding our city’s extraordinary 50-year commitment to public art.”

The exhibit runs from November 10, 2017 through May 13, 2018. Head to the Museum of the City of New York website for more details, or check out some photos below.

Jane Dickson's 1982 artwork "Untitled," part of "Messages to the Public"

Jane Dickson, Untitled, part of Messages to the Public, Times Square, 1982.

Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Ugo Rondinone's 2013 installation "Human Nature"

Ugo Rondinone, Human Nature, Rockefeller Center, 2013. Presented by Nespresso, Organized by Tishman Speyer and Public Art Fund.

Photograph by Bart Barlow. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Subway artwork "Times Square Mural" designed by Roy Lichtenstein,
Times Square Mural (2002) © Roy Lichtenstein, NYCT Times Square-42nd Street Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design.
Courtesy of Museum of the City of New York

Vik Muniz's 2017 subway artwork "Perfect Strangers"

Perfect Strangers (2017) © Vik Muniz, NYCT Second Avenue-72nd Street Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design.

Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

Rob Pruitt's 2011 artwork "The Andy Monument"

Rob Pruitt, The Andy Monument, Union Square, 2011.

Photograph by James Ewing. Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Laurie Hawkinson, Erika Rothenberg, and John Malpede's 2004 artwork "Freedom of Expression National Monument"

Laurie Hawkinson, Erika Rothenberg, and John Malpede, Freedom of Expression National Monument, 2004, Foley Square.

Photo courtesy of Erika Rothenberg

Artist Kara Walker's 2014 work "A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby"

At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected: A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant. A project of Creative Time. Domino Sugar Refinery, Brooklyn, NY, May 10 to July 6, 2014. 

Jason Wyche, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Artwork © 2014 Kara Walker.

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