Sunday, April 17, 2016

Marge Gull painting of the second Richardson Roadhouse

This is the second of three roadhouses that operated at the former town of Richardson, about 75 miles south of Fairbanks—295 miles from Valdez. The first roadhouse, built by Jacob Samuelson near the Tanana River, washed away (with most of the town) in 1915. 

When the town re-located farther from the river, J. W. McCluskey and his wife built a roadhouse just south of Banner Creek. That roadhouse was called McCluskey’s at first—later called Richardson Roadhouse. As travel along the improved Richardson Highway increased, McCluskey added a trading post and sold gasoline and automotive supplies. 

Anticipating even better business he eventually doubled the size of the roadhouse. That is the structure shown in the painting.  However, even though he built it, the anticipated traffic did not come and by the end of the 1920s the roadhouse lay vacant. The log structure was eventually taken apart and moved to Fairbanks.

The third roadhouse at Richardson was built by Fred Wilkins, who homesteaded in the area and operated a general store at the town's second location. After the town washed away a second time, Wilkins moved his operation farther from the river, to the north side of Banner Creek, which is where the remains of his roadhouse still stand.

Genevieve Marguerite (Marge) Gull (who died in 2013) came to Alaska with her husband in 1938, living first in Fairbanks and then Anchorage. She was an amateur painter and painted 49 of the roadhouses along the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail.

I assume that at least some of the paintings were done from photographs since many of the roadhouses disappeared long before Marge came to Alaska. This painting is in the collection of the Valdez Museum.

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