The only traditional school left on Douglas is Gastineau Elementary, which serves all the Douglas Island elementary-aged students; the Douglas Public Library is part of the Juneau Public Library System. Douglas has a few restaurants and bars (The Island Pub, Louie's Douglas Inn, and The Douglas Café), a local live theater (Perseverance Theater), and a gas station. The town’s population has dropped over the years but recently is up to about 3,000 people, or close to ten percent of the City and Borough of Juneau’s population. Douglas gets its water and electricity from Juneau and has a mix of onsite and municipal (diverted to Juneau) wastewater treatment.
The Alaska Department of Corrections has its headquarters in Douglas.
Absorbed into Juneau, Alaska, 1970
Douglas Island was originally a border of the Auke people’s and Taku people’s territory. It was not usually used for year-round settlement, but rather as a place to spend the summer, or at times a place for battles.
Some historical reports indicate an early settler to the area may be credited for the naming of Douglas Island.
In 1880 gold was discovered in Juneau, Alaska, across the narrow Gastineau Channel, drawing in all kinds of people looking to strike it rich. In 1881 two towns sprouted up on Douglas Island: Treadwell and Douglas. Treadwell was the community for the miners, with its own entertainment, pool, and bar. Douglas, too, had businesses popping up and soon had its own school and post office. A railroad and boardwalk connected the two towns. At this time the Treadwell power plant was large enough to power the entire Treadwell area, Douglas, and Juneau. The power plant continued to serve the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine until the mine was shut down in 1944 by the War Department as non-essential to the war effort.
In 1902, the city of Douglas was incorporated. The town sustained significant damage on March 9, 1911 when a fire started in the Douglas Grill. It took the Douglas, Treadwell, and Juneau fire departments working together to stop the entire town from being destroyed.
The towns of Douglas and Treadwell underwent changes after the 1917 cave-in of the Treadwell mine. While one section still operated until 1926, Treadwell shrank and Douglas became the town of Douglas Island.
Douglas continued to have its own dairy (Douglas Dairy, owned by Joe Kendler) until 1923 when it moved across the channel. At this time, there was a regular ferry between the towns of Juneau and Douglas.
In 1935, the Douglas Bridge was opened and made transportation between the island and Juneau simpler. On February 23, 1937, the city of Douglas again experienced a devastating fire, with 600 of the 700 residents losing their homes. However, Douglas rebuilt and restarted. On March 8, 1955 the city voted to combine schools with the city of Juneau, resulting in the construction of Juneau-Douglas High School, which continues to serve the area's students.
In a controversial moment in 1970, voters in the cities of Douglas and Juneau, and of the surrounding Greater Juneau Borough, elected to unify their respective governments, forming the present-day City and Borough of Juneau.
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