Anchorage is a Unified Home Rule Municipality (officially called the Municipality of Anchorage) in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is also a census area. With 260,283 residents according to the 2000 census, Anchorage is the largest city in the state of Alaska, composing more than two-fifths of the state's population. A State of Alaska Demographer in 2004 estimates the population at 277,498. Anchorage was founded in 1915 and named after a place where a ship lies at anchor. Its official nickname is "The City of Lights and Flowers". Garden writers call Anchorage the "Hanging Basket Capital of the World" when it comes to the city's 100,000 hanging baskets, and aviation buffs refer to the city as the "Air Crossroads of the World" because of its geographical location between the two northern continents.
In downtown Anchorage along the streets and sidewalks are 425 baskets of bright gold triploid marigold drenched with trailing sapphire lobelia. The blue and gold flowers represent the colors of the Municipality of Anchorage flag and the Alaska state flag. The city of Anchorage blooms with vibrant color during the late spring and summer when it comes to flowers.
Today Anchorage has many features of a modern urban area, such as parks and forests, bike and city trails, skiing and cross-country ski trails, business and commerce, theaters and other entertainments. The tourist industry is strong and offers many activities and attractions.
During the 1980s, the Alaska Legislature passed a law to move the state capital out of Juneau and closer to Anchorage, actually to the new town of Willow in the Anchorage. However, that notion fell through, and the capital city remains at Juneau.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the municipality has a total area of 5,079.2 km2 (1,961.1 mi2), 4,395.8 km2 (1,697.2 mi2) of it is land and 683.4 km2 (263.9 mi2) of it is water. The total area is 13.46% water.
Anchorage is located in South Central Alaska, at 61 °13'06"North latitude (about the same as Stockholm and St. Petersburg), -149 °53'57"West longitude (about the same as Hawaii), northeast of the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, and Cook Inlet, due north of the Kenai Peninsula, northwest of Prince William Sound and Alaska Panhandle, and nearly due south of Mount McKinley/Denali. The city is situated on a triangular peninsula bordered on the east by the rugged, scenic, and eminently hike-worthy Chugach Mountains, on the northwest by the Knik Arm, and on the southwest by the Turnagain Arm, upper branches of the Cook Inlet, which itself is the northernmost reach of the Pacific Ocean. Despite this, the city lacks coastal beaches, instead having wide, treacherous mudflats. Adjacent to the north is Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska. To the south is Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska, and to the east is Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska.
As of the U.S. Census of 2000, Anchorage had a population of 260,283 and in all the Municipality of Anchorage is home to almost two-fifths of Alaska's population. The population density is 59.2/ km2 (153.4/ mi2). There are 100,368 housing units at an average density of 22.8/ km2 (59.1/ mi2). The racial makeup of the municipality is 72.23% White (Caucasian), 5.55% are Asian Americans, 5.84% are African Americans, 7.28% are American Indians or Alaska Natives, 0.93% are Pacific Islanders, 5.69% are Hispanic Americans or Latinos of any race, 5.98% are from two or more races, and 2.19% are from other non-white backgrounds.
There are 94,822 households out of which 38.9% have children under the age 18 living with them, 51.1% are married couples living together, 11.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% are non-families. 23.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 3.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.19.
In the city the population is spread out with 29.1% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 33.9% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 5.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 101.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 102.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $55,546, and the median income for a family is $63,682. Males have a median income of $41,267 versus $63,682 for females. The per capita income for the city is $25,287. 7.3% of the population and 5.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 8.8% of those under the age of 18 and 6.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Anchoragites exemplify many of the qualities to be found among Alaskans generally: independence, friendliness, practical-mindedness, and a love of the outdoors. There is, even among businesspeople in Anchorage, a tendency to "dress down". (There is no dress code in any Anchorage restaurant.) This, and a sort of frontier spirit that still lives on in Alaska generally, gives Anchorage a relatively casual, relaxed atmosphere compared to some other American cities. (These cultural characteristics are only more exaggerated the farther one moves out of the city into the rest of Alaska.) The city has traditionally served as a destination for immigrants, and there are active Asian, Eastern European, and Hispanic populations, along with communities of African Americans and various groups of aboriginal Alaskans. Over 95 languages are spoken by students in the Anchorage School District.
Anchorage is the center of commerce for Alaska and a major port, receiving over 95% of all freight entering Alaska passes, as well as a major hub of the famous Alaska Railroad. Several oil and gas industries like: BP Exploration (Alaska}, Inc.; ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc.; Doyon Universal Services; Enstar Natural Gas Co.; ExxonMobil Production; Flint Hills Resources; Norcoast Mechanical; Tesoro Alaska Petroleum Co.; Udelhoven Oilfield System Services, Inc.; Union Oil Company of California; and VECO Alaska, Inc. are all headquartered in Anchorage.
Anchorage is home to two major corporations which provide communication services to Alaska: Alaska Communications Systems and General Communications, Inc., both of which offer local and long distance telephone service, dial up and broadband Internet access, and cellular telephone service.
Many corporations, such as large banks, real estate, transportation, other communications, and government agencies are all headquartered in Anchorage. There are two strategically important U.S. military bases bordering Anchorage on the north: Elmendorf AFB and Fort Richardson. Both military bases together station over 9,000 military personnels.
Numerous visitor and tourist facilities and services are available throughout the Municipality of Anchorage. Nearly all Alaska Interior-bound tourists pass through Anchorage at some stage of their journeys in Alaska. This is particulatly true since the Alaska Railroad has its southern terminus in Anchorage. Not surprisingly, the summer is tourist season, and downtown Anchorage, as well as the highways and railroads leading north and south of the city, are typically teeming with tourists. Anchorage has seasonal factors contribute to a fluctuating, though low, unemployment rate.
Russia was well-established in North America by the 1800s. In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward brokered a deal to purchase Alaska from debt-ridden Russia for $7.2 million, about two cents an acre. Alaska's value was not appreciated by the American masses at that time, calling it "Seward's folly", "Seward's icebox" and "Walrussia". By 1888, gold was discovered along Turnagain Arm. In 1912, Alaska becomes a United States Territory. Anchorage was carefully laid out by city planners in 1914, originally as a railroad construction port for the Alaska Railroad, and on July 9, 1915, the first sale of town lots was held. In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson authorized funds for the construction of the Alaska Railroad. That same year the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce was formed. Ship Creek Landing in Anchorage was selected as the headquarters of this effort. Soon a "Tent City" sprang up at the mouth of Ship Creek and the population quickly swelled to more than 2,000. Would-be entrepreneurs flocked to this bustling frontier town, and they brought with them everything necessary to build a city. A popular hardware and clothing store, "The Anchorage," was actually an old dry-docked steamship named "Berth." Although the area had been known by various names, the U.S. Post Office Department formalized the use of the name "Anchorage," and despite some protests the name stuck. In 1920, the United States government relinquished its direct control over the city, and elections were held. Anchorage was incorporated on November 23, 1920. In 1923, William Mulcahy establishes the Anchorage Baseball League. Mulcahy was a baseball fan who was working as the Alaska Railroad station auditor assistant and established the baseball league in his spare time. Later in life, Mulcahy introduced Little League baseball and established the city's YMCA. The Mulcahy Park stadium and ball field were named in his honor for his contributions to early Anchorage.
The 1930s were a time that Anchorage rebounded from the loss of population and industry it had suffered during World War I. Air transportation became increasingly important to Anchorage. In 1930, the original "Park Strip" landing field was replaced by a new facility, Merrill Field, which had a beacon and a control tower, and in a few short years, it became one of the busiest centers of civilian aircraft activity in the United States. In 1937, Providence Alaska Medical Center opened its doors.
The arrival of US Army troops in 1940 marked a decade of growth based on military expansion for Anchorage. Growth spurted in the 1940s, with the construction of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, which made Anchorage a major defense center. In 1940, a canal was built connecting Lake Spenard with Lake Hood, making it the world's largest seaplane base. The outbreak of World War II with the threat of a Japanese invasion prompted continued expansion of military personnel and aircraft, and later the pressures of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union ensured continued heavy military investment in the Anchorage area. In 1947, the parking meter was introduced in Anchorage, and in 1949, the first traffic lights were installed on Fourth Avenue. Between 1939 and 1950, Anchorage's population spurted from 4,230 to 30,060, and the cost of living soared. Anchorage also experienced an unfortunate rise in crime during this tumultuous growth period, a problem the city would fight for decades.
The decade of the 1950s was also eventful. In 1951 came the opening of the Seward Highway. On December 10, 1951, Anchorage established itself as the "Air Crossroads of the World" when Anchorage International Airport opened with transpolar airline traffic flying between Western Europe and East Asia. New new airport also became a refueling stop for flights between the contiguous 48 states and East Asia, until nonstop flights became practical around 1970, with the Boeing 747 airliner. In 1953, health care expanded with the opening of the Alaska Native Medical Center. Also, three volcanoes erupted in the area, including Mount Spurr, which dumped several inches of ash on Anchorage. KTVA, the city's first television station, began broadcasting in 1953. In 1954, the Alyeska Resort was established. In 1957, oil was discovered on the Kenai Peninsula. On January 3, 1959, Alaska joined the union as the 49th state.
The decade of the 1960s began on a bright note for Anchorage after Alaska's attaining statehood. After Alaska became a state, Anchorage faced a severe housing shortage, which was solved partially by suburban expansion. In January 1964, Anchorage became both a City and a Borough. But on March 27, 1964, Anchorage was hit by the Good Friday Earthquake, which registered 9.2 on the Richter scale and caused tremendous destruction in south Alaska. This earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in North America and United States history, and Anchorage lay only 75 miles (120 km) from the epicenter. It killed 131 people across South Central Alaska, and property damage was estimated at over $300 million (1964 dollars). The brand new J.C. Penney dept. store in Anchorage was flattened. Anchorage's remarkable recovery from this disaster dominated life in the late 1960s. The continued threat of earthquakes has prompted a limit on the height of buildings in the city; the tallest buildings are 21 stories high. In 1968, Kincaid Park was created in South Anchorage from a former Nike surface-to-air missile site. That same year, oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Slope and, in 1969, oil-lease sales brought billions of dollars to the state.
The decade of the 1970s was an important time of growth for the Anchorage economy. On March 3, 1973, the first 1049-mile-long (1690 km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race started from downtown Anchorage with 34 mushers. Twenty-two mushers finished the race, with the last one arriving in Nome one-month after he left the starting line. In recent years, winners have finished the race in less than 10 days. In 1974, construction begain on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, with Valdez, not Anchorage, as its southern terminus. The oil discovery and pipline construction fueled a modern-day boom when oil and construction companies set up their headquarters in Anchorage. The pipeline was completed in 1977 at a cost of more than $8 billion. In 1975, Bicentennial Park was created in Southeast Anchorage. On September 15, 1975, the city and borough consolidated forming a unified government. Also included in this unification were Eagle River, Eklutna, Girdwood, Glen Alps, and several other communities. The unified area became officially known as the Municipality of Anchorage. By 1980, the population of Anchorage had grown to 174,431.
The decade of the 1980s was a time of growth, thanks to a flood of North Slope oil revenue into the state treasury. Capital projects and an aggressive beautification program, combined with far-sighted community planning, greatly increased infrastructure and quality of life. These included a new library, civic center, sports arena, and performing arts center. The 1980s was also a time when Alaska's up-and-down economy struck. The price of oil dropped dramatically, and recession hit Anchorage. But in 1984, Hilltop Ski Area was established, which along with the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, and Alpenglow at Arctic Valley gave residents three fully- operational skiing areas, benefitting tourism and recreational activities. In 1986, Kincaid Outdoor Center opens. In 1989, Mount Redoubt erupted again, curtailing aviation in the Anchorage area for a short period of time.
The decade of the 1990s was a time when Anchorage saw gold. In 1996, the Arctic Winter Games were held in Chugiak/Eagle River and, in 1999, the Alaska Native Heritage Center opened.
On July 8, 2000, the municipal airport was renamed "Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport" in honor of Alaska's longest-serving United States Senator.
In spite of the height limitations on buildings, Anchorage today has an attractive skyline nevertheless, particularly with the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet, or the often-visible Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) as a backdrop. From Government Hill, one can see the best view of Mount McKinley. Though space is limited in the "Anchorage bowl," as locals call the peninsula on which the city is located, many parks, greenbelts, and other undeveloped areas can be found within the city itself, making it particularly attractive to nature lovers (to say nothing of the attractions available just a short distance outside the city). Over the past thirty years, however, many of these undeveloped areas have filled in with houses, strip malls, and other development. Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount of land under the Anchorage Municipal control, which totals some 1,955 square miles (5063 km²) - about the size of Delaware. The majority of this land is located within the Chugach Mountains to the east of the city, which also comprises Chugach State Park.