Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kickstarter campaign for "Interior Skeches II" book reaches 50% funding level

We are half way to our funding goal of $2,230.00, which is the amount needed to cover the development and first printing of my book, "Interior Sketches II, More ramblings around Interior Alaska historic sites.

For those of you unfamiliar with the project, this is a follow-up project to my first book, "Interior Sketches, Ramblings around Interior Alaska historic sites.

Both books are based on the historical column, "Sketches of Alaska," which I have been producing for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper for the past five years. That column was given the "Contributions to Alaska History award by the Alaska Historical Society in 2011.

Each book showcases 60 historic sites scattered across the region, with each listing featuring a detailed pen and ink illustration plus a short essay describing the site and regional history. You can get a feel for the book by looking at the historical posts on my blog, "Sketches of Alaska."

Please check out the Kickstarter project for "Interior Sketches II." The project ends on April 19th, so there is still time to pledge. Rewards offered range from art postcards and note cards for $10.00 and under, a 2016 historical calendar for $12.00, copies of the new book for $20.00, and original historical pen and ink drawings ranging from $150.00 to $400.00.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Old Independent Lumber warehouse representative of Interior Alaska's lumbering history

Independent Lumber's Fairbanks warehouse in 1990

As the town of Fairbanks grew between 1901 and the early 1920s it was not built with brick and stone. The city was far from Outside sources, and shipping space limited. Heavy building materials were generally too expensive to ship, so residents built with local materials when possible.
Wood was the construction material of choice, and Fairbanks had an insatiable appetite for lumber during its early years.

Logs and milled lumber were used to construct buildings, boats and other implements; timbers were needed for bridges and mine tunnels supports; and cordwood was essential to fuel the countless steam engines used at mines, and to heat homes and businesses. Huge wood lots lay scattered about town. One early photo of a cord-wood yard describes it as being 20 acres in size.

The first buildings in Fairbanks were cabins constructed of logs hewn by the builders themselves, but by 1903 local sawmills were supplying lumber. A 1904 photograph shows Fred Noyes’ Tanana Mill at the edge of town, about where the Morris Thompson Cultural Center is now. (The Tanana Mill later moved across the river to “Noyes” slough, where the Golden Valley Electrical Association complex now is on Illinois Street.)

According to a 2003 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article by Candy Waugaman, four lumber mills supplied the Fairbanks area’s needs by 1907. There was Chena Lumber at Chena townsite downriver from Fairbanks, Fairbanks Lumber on Garden Island, the Noyes mill, and Independent Lumber at the east end of Seventh Avenue, on the far side of the city cemetery.

Independent Lumber began as a partnership between Roy Rutherford and Sylvester Widman. A 1909 article in Alaska-Yukon magazine relates that Rutherford came to Valdez in 1901, spent several years there operating a sawmill, and then moved to Fairbanks. Widman stampeded to Dawson City in 1898, moved to Eagle after a couple of years and finally landed in Fairbanks about the same time Rutherford did.

In May 1906 Rutherford bought land on the bank of the Chena River at the edge of town and erected a mill, and in September of that year he partnered with Walker to form Independent Lumber Company. For many years they operated a large lumber yard stretching from the city cemetery at Seventh Avenue to 10th Avenue where the Regency Hotel is now.

Facilities included a saw and planning mill, garage, offices, two residences, numerous sheds and warehouse. Logs for the mill were felled in the upper reaches of the Chena River Valley and floated downriver to Fairbanks. An early photo of the sawmill shows an inclined skidway four-logs wide leading up from the river to stacks of unprocessed logs, with the mill building in the background.
The operation was so successful that it opened an office downtown on First Avenue and had an additional office across the river near the railroad yard.

In 1918, it bought out the Tanana Mill. Independent Lumber remained at its eastside location until the 1960s when the business moved to a new site on south Cushman Street (where Independent Rental is now).

The 50-foot by 84-foot timber-frame gable-roofed warehouse shown in the drawing is the mill’s only surviving building. It is depicted with its original ship-lap siding and corrugated metal roof. Located at the corner of Clay Street and 8th Avenue, it lay empty and deteriorating for almost 50 years. In 1975,the Borough even assessed it as only being worth salvage value.

However, the building was recently rehabilitated, including replacing the siding and roof. It now houses Automotive Concepts. One can hope that the building, visible from the Steese Expressway, will be around for many years to come.


  • Buzby and Metcalf photo album. University Archives. University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • “Fairbanks, A city historic building survey.” Janet Matheson. City of Fairbanks. 1985

  • “In the woods.” Candy Waugaman. In “Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 2-23-2003

  • “Men and Endeavor in the Tanana Valley.” B. B. Metheany. In “Alaska-Yukon” magazine. “ January 1909

  • "Mill stood where hotel is today.” Candy Waugaman. In “Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 4-23-1995

  • Woodrow Johansen Papers. University Archives. University of Alaska Fairbanks 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Equinox in Fairbanks - 2015

So this is what spring looks like in Fairbanks. I went out for a walk in the woods behind our house on Saturday, the 21st. Still long shadows, but the world is warming up.

Friday, March 20, 2015

"Interior Sketches II" selected as a "Staff Pick" by Kickstarter

I just received an e-mail letting me known that someone at Kickstarter decided my project was worthy enough to be a "Staff Pick." That means that for at least a few days it will be featured in the Staff Pick and New and Noteworthy sections on the Kickstarter site. Woo hoo! They didn't do that for my last project...

If you missed my earlier note about the project, here is the project link: . Or you can do a search for "Interior Sketches II" on the Kickstarter website (

Thanks for all your support.


"Interior Sketches II: More Rambling around Interior Alaska historic sites" Kickstarter project launched

For the past five years I have been publishing a bi-weekly historical column, “Sketches of Alaska,” in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper. Each column features a detailed pen and ink drawing of a historic site in Eastern Interior Alaska, plus a short essay describing the site and regional history. The column was awarded the “Contributions to Alaska History” award by the Alaska Historical Society in 2011.

In 2013 I published a book, “Interior Sketches: Ramblings around Interior Alaska historic sites,” based on the first 2 ½ years of the column. That book, which showcased 60 historic sites scattered across the region, has been well-received.
 Now it is time to publish a second installment covering the most recent 2 ½ years of the column. My new book, “Interior Sketches II: More ramblings around Interior Alaska historic sites,” will feature 60 additional sites.

As with the first book, I am producing “Interior Sketches II” through my own imprint, Pingo Press, and would appreciate your help in financing the initial printing of the book. I have started a Kickstarter project to help fund the publishing costs. (For those of you not familiar with Kickstarter, it is an internet site for group funding of creative projects.)

Please check out my “Interior Sketches Kickstarter project. There are some neat rewards for pledges at $5.00 and above. For a $20.00 pledge you can reserve a copy of the new book. Pledge if you can (minimum pledge is $1.00) and tell all your friends about it. The only way my project will succeed is by spreading the word about it. This is a 30 day project and ends on April 19th.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Redpolls delight in sunny March weather in Fairbanks

The redpolls (small brown and white finches with a red spot on top of their heads) have been flocking around Fairbanks this past week. They descended on our back yard, feasting on the birch seeds scattered across the yard.

 They left amazing tracks in the snow--cryptic scribblings covering our back yard
These two photos were taken on different days and at different times during the day, and the reversed shadows change to look of the tracks entirely.