Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Present Reflections Of The Past

A lamp illuminates a brush, mirror, ceramic pitcher and dish, sewing tools and other personal items atop a dresser in a bedroom of the Wickersham House (1904) museum in Pioneer Park.

2300 Airport Way, Fairbanks, Alaska: Tuesday, 27 June 2017

part of the Fairbanks album


Situated on forty-four acres along the Chena River in central Fairbanks, Pioneer Park is a historical park that first opened in 1967 as part of the Alaska '67 Centennial Exposition. Originally known as Alaska 67 and then Alaskaland, Pioneer Park features numerous museums, an operating narrow-gauge railroad, the Harding railroad car, S.S. Nenana sternwheeler riverboat, and original buildings moved from downtown Fairbanks.

One such building is the James and Deborah Wickersham House, built between 1904 and 1906 on a lot at the northeast corner of First Avenue and Noble Street. It was the first Fairbanks house constructed with milled lumber and the first with a white picket fence. Originally the home was only two rooms, "the walls were papered and the floors covered with Japanese matting," but additional rooms were added on in the subsequent years.

According to the Tanana-Yukon Historical Society, "the original kitchen, woodshed, closet, porch, and a north addition were deemed too deteriorated to be moved" to Alaskaland in 1968, however "the kitchen was recreated in 1986" and "the original sitting room of 1904, now the dining room, and the parlor and northwest bedroom or study of 1906 have been restored." Listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 27 April 1979, the Wickersham House now functions as a museum and "has been furnished to suggest how it might have looked when occupied by the Wickershams between 1906 and 1910."

James Wickersham (1857–1939) was "born near Patoka, Illinois and moved in 1883 with his wife to Tacoma, Washington Territory. There he served as county probate judge and Tacoma city attorney and, in 1898, was elected to the Washington Territorial House of Representatives." In 1900, Wickersham was appointed district judge for the newly-formed Third Judicial District by President William McKinley and became "the first judge to sit in the Interior of Alaska." He served until 1908.

Known to enjoy hunting and hiking, Wickersham led the first recorded attempt to ascend Denali in 1903. Encountering impassable areas and experiencing the loss of their food and equipment, the party ended their attempt before completion.

Following his career as a district judge, Wickersham was elected in 1908 as Alaska's delegate to Congress. He served until 1920 and was re-elected in 1930. During his tenure, Wickersham was responsible for several notable legislative acts. "He secured the passage of the Organic Act of 1912 granting Alaska territorial status; introduced the Alaska Railroad Bill; introduced the legislation to establish McKinley Park; and was responsible for the creation of the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, later to become the University of Alaska. In 1916, he introduced the first Alaska statehood bill."

Among the various interesting artifacts and pieces of furniture on display inside is a copy of Alaskaland Cabin Lore first published by Alpha Delta Kappa in 1978 detailing the park's Pioneer Village cabins. This document is the subject of a photograph taken on Thursday, 18 August 2016, which itself was a reproduction of a similar photograph taken on Friday, 16 June 1978.

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