Roadtrippin’ 2022: History of Juneau’s Glacier Highway remembered by photos dumped decades ago in the Capitol

History of Juneau’s Glacier Highway remembered by photos dumped decades ago in the Capitol
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 3:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Glacier Highway was built at the turn of the 20th century, but a collection of photographs, showcasing its construction and improvement over decades, was almost lost to history.

George Danner III is a third-generation Juneauite. He has a photo album that has been in his family’s possession for well over 50 years. The album has engineers’ records of building the highway, interspersed with some of Danner’s family’s own photos.

The album was rescued from a garbage bin by a janitor in Alaska’s Capitol Building before statehood. The janitor gave it to Danner’s father, who was an architect and engineer, and interested in history. The photos show the difficulty of building parts of the highway, and how it would quickly deteriorate into a muddy mess during wet weather.

“It really puts into perspective how easy it is for us today to not only construct stuff like this, but use them,” Danner said.

He explains that the highway was originally built to help Juneau’s mines. They needed power and the highway gave access to hydroelectric dams. It also helped open up more of the region for homesteading and farming. Danner’s grandfather was one of Juneau’s dairy farmers. He explains that they provided the city with fresh milk, but into the 1960s fast and reliable refrigerated transportation from the Lower 48 made that unnecessary.

Juneau’s dairy farms closed, and prime grazing land was turned into grocery stores and homes for a growing city. The highway though kept being extended.

Danner says it stretched out toward Berner’s Bay with plans to build a pulp mill, but that never got built. Plans to build it closer toward Haines and Skagway have also been shelved, for now.

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