Early Anchorage: From Tent City to Small Town
Anchorage was established as a railroad construction camp early in 1915. The Alaska Railroad was being built by the federal government to develop Alaska’s resources, particularly coal. Many construction workers and entrepreneurs first lived in “Tent City” along Ship Creek. In the summer of 1915 a town site was laid out on the bluff above tent city, lots were auctioned off and people built homes and businesses in what is now downtown Anchorage. Between 1920 and 1940 the Alaska Railroad remained the largest local employer and the population slowly built up to about 2000 residents, making Anchorage one of the five largest towns in Alaska. The military (and population) build-up caused by World War II and the Cold War changed Anchorage from a small town to Alaska’s largest city.