In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson authorized
funds for the construction of the Alaska Railroad. A "tent city"
sprang up in the wilderness at the mouth of Ship Creek, and soon swelled
to a population of over 2,000. On July 9, 1915, the Anchorage
townsite auction was held, and over 600 lots in a fixed grid were sold for
approximately $150,000. Although the area had been known by various
names, in the same year the U.S. Post Office Department formalized the use
of the name "Anchorage", and despite some protests the name stuck.
During the thirties, Anchorage rebounded from then
loss of population and industry it had suffered during World War I.
Between 1940 and 1951, Anchorage's population expanded exponentially from
3,000 to 47,000, and so did the cost of living. The "Boom Town" of
Anchorage also experienced an unfortunate rise in crime during this
tumultuous growth period, a problem the city would fight for decades.
The long awaited completion of the road between Seward and Anchorage along
the Turnagain Arm was completed in the early 1950's by the Alaska Road
Commission, opening the Kenai Peninsula to motor vehicle traffic.
The decade of the 1960's began on the high note of
Alaska's attaining statehood in 1959. However, another less
propitious event dominated Anchorage's energy during these years. On
March 27, 1964, a natural disaster of incredible proportions struck
Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska: the Good Friday earthquake. This
earthquake measure 8.6 on the Richter scale, the largest ever recorded in
North America and, because Anchorage lay only 80 miles for the epicenter,
damage to structures ran to the hundreds of millions of dollars.
This disaster printed itself indelibly on an entire generation of
Anchorage residents, who still vividly remember the tribulations and loss
of life brought on by what is simply known as "The Big One."
The decade of the eighties was also a time of growth
for Anchorage, especially for its infrastructure and quality of life.
Thanks to a flood of North Slope oil revenue into the state treasury,
between 1980 and 1987 nearly a billion dollars worth of capital projects
were constructed in Anchorage. These included a new library, civic
center, sports arena and performing arts area. An aggressive
beatification program combined with far-sighted community planning helped
add to the large number of parks already established in the area, bringing
the total to over 180. An unparalleled system of trails was created,
culminating in the Coastal Trail which made the Anchorage coastline
available to runners, skiers and bikers from Ship Creek to Point Campbell.
By the beginning of the 1990's Anchorage could boast of 259 miles of
maintained trails. Hilltop Ski Area was established in 1984, which
along with the Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood and Alpenglow Ski Area gave
residents three fully operational skiing areas. Tourism and
recreational activities were fast becoming a mainstay of the modern
Anchorage economy, which has continued to the present day.