Atlas statue, an Anchorage icon, finds new home outside Midtown gym

 Photo by Mike Nederbrock/KTUU
Photo by Mike Nederbrock/KTUU (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 14, 2016 at 3:16 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

For more than four decades, Atlas has brooded over a spa-turned-fur shop in Downtown Anchorage.

After some 42 years in its spot at West Fourth Avenue and A Street, the iconic statute now graces a gym parking lot in an industrial section of Midtown. Cranes plucked the muscular Greek god off the roof of Anchorage Fur Factory about three months ago, and a flatbed truck hauled it to its new home outside Alaska Functional Fitness.

The familiar landmark even received a face-lift. Atlas has been power washed and repainted, his globe now mounted on a firm, new base that resembles granite.

“I have in excess of $30,000 in it by the time I’m done with it,” said James Protzman, owner of Alaska Functional Fitness.

Protzman grew up in Anchorage and was always wowed by the Atlas statue. He tried to buy it for several years but the owners wouldn't budge. Finally, over the summer, they agreed to strike a deal.

The tipping point? A leaky roof.

“He was mounted on a pipe and the pipe went through the roof," Protzman said. "And they were always fighting roof leaks. It’s a flat roof. They were always patching the roof and there were buckets underneath inside the store picking up rainwater and so forth."

Jorge Hernandez, co-owner of Anchorage Fur Factory, agreed that the roof job prompted the transaction. But the decision to part with the strong man didn’t come easy.

“I didn’t want to get rid of him. He was a landmark,” Hernandez said.

Many people wanted to buy Atlas over the years, said Hernandez, whose parents purchased the building, a former spa, in 1982.

The furriers became accustomed to tourists having their pictures taken outside the fur shop with Atlas, ever serious, gazing down. Over the years the statue has worn neon lights, Christmas ornaments, a fur jock strap, a giant mukluk and other accouterments.

The mukluk became a headache. In the summer it would attract nesting birds, including seagulls that would dive bomb pedestrians.

“We finally said, ‘Enough with the mukluk,” Hernandez recalled. "The seagulls got to be too much."

Neither Hernandez nor Protzman know much about who built Atlas or how it got to Alaska. They both think three of the statues were originally manufactured. Protzman said he's heard one is in Montreal and the other in upstate New York.

Atlas is attracting attention in its new location, across the street from Club SinRock, a strip joint.

“We had a lot of people who up who weren’t gym members who showed up and were like, ‘Wow!’ People who grew up here thought it was gone. So we had a fair number of people stopping and getting their pictures taken with it. It’s kind of cool,” Protzman said.

Contact KTUU's Paula Dobbyn at pdobbyn@ktuu.com, 907-762-9242 or @pauladobbyn