A History of Anchorage

By Tim Lambert

Early Anchorage

Anchorage was founded in 1915 when Congress authorized building a railroad. Oscar Anderson House and Wendler House were both built in 1915.

Anchorage was incorporated on 23 November 1920. At that time it had a population of 1,856. It grew slowly to over 2,200 in 1930 and just under 3,500 in 1940. Meanwhile, Anchorage Hotel opened in 1916. Then, during the 1940s and the 1950s, the population of Anchorage grew very rapidly. By 1950 the population of Anchorage was over 11,000. By 1960 it was over 44,000.

Old City Hall was built in 1936. Old Federal Building was built in 1940. Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson were built in the early 1940s. Meanwhile, Merrill Field Airport was built in 1930. Anchorage International Airport opened in 1951. (It was renamed Ted Stevens Airport Anchorage International Airport in 2000 after an Alaskan senator).

Modern Anchorage

However, on 27 March 1964 (Good Friday), Anchorage was severely damaged by an earthquake. It measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale making it the most powerful earthquake recorded in North America.

Yet Anchorage soon recovered. Anchorage Museum opened in 1968. Also in 1968, Kincaid Park opened. Alaska Zoo opened in 1969. Chugach State Park was established in 1970.

In 1975 Anchorage merged with nearby boroughs. It became the Municipality of Anchorage. By 1980 the population of Anchorage was over 174,000. It reached 250,000 in 1994. Meanwhile, Alaska Regional Hospital was built in 1976. Oscar Anderson House Museum opened in 1982.

Robert B. Atwood Building was built in 1983. Conoco-Phillips Building was also built in 1983. Alaska Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1988. Also in 1988, the Alaska Aviation Museum opened. Alaska Botanical Garden opened in 1993 and the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature opened in 1994. Alaska Native Heritage Center opened in 1999.


Today tourism is a major industry in Anchorage. Meanwhile, Dimond Center Mall opened in 1977, and Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall opened in 1987. Moose Run Golf Course was established in 2000.

Oil is also an important industry in Anchorage. In 2022 the population of Anchorage was 291,000.

The Anchorage Museum