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Juneau, Alaska
Dzánti K'ihéeni
City and Borough
City and Borough of Juneau
Aerial view of Downtown Juneau, the cruise ship port, and Douglas Island from the Mount Roberts Tramway.
Aerial view of Downtown Juneau, the cruise ship port, and Douglas Island from the Mount Roberts Tramway.
Flag of Juneau, Alaska
Flag
Official seal of Juneau, Alaska
Seal
Location of Juneau City and Borough, Alaska
Location of Juneau City and Borough, Alaska
Country  United States
State  Alaska
Named 1881 (Juneau City)
1882 (Juneau)
Incorporated 1900
Home-rule city October 1960
Borough September 30, 1963 (Greater Juneau Borough)
July 1, 1970 (City and Borough of Juneau)
Named for Joe Juneau
Area
 • City and Borough 8,430.4 km2 (3,255.0 sq mi)
 • Land 7,036.1 km2 (2,715.7 sq mi)
 • Water 1,394.3 km2 (539.3 sq mi)
 • Urban 36 km2 (14.0 sq mi)
Elevation 17 m (56 ft)
Population (2010)
 • City and Borough 31,276 Ranked 3rd
 • Estimate (2015) 32,756
 • Density 4.4/km2 (11.3/sq mi)
 • Urban 24,537
 • Urban density 675.5/km2 (1,749.5/sq mi)
 • Demonym Juneauite
Time zone AKST (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP code 99801-99803, 99811-99812, 99824, 99821
Area code(s) 907
FIPS code 02-36400
GNIS feature ID 1404263
Website www.juneau.org

The City and Borough of Juneau (/ˈn/ JOO-no; Tlingit: Dzánti K'ihéeni [ˈtsántʰì kʼìˈhíːnì]), is the capital city of Alaska. It is a unified municipality located on the Gastineau Channel in the Alaskan panhandle, and it is the second largest city in the United States by area. Juneau has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government of what was then the District of Alaska was moved from Sitka as dictated by the U.S. Congress in 1900. The municipality unified on July 1, 1970, when the city of Juneau merged with the city of Douglas and the surrounding Greater Juneau Borough to form the current municipality, which is larger by area than both Rhode Island and Delaware.

Downtown Juneau () is nestled at the base of Mount Juneau and across the channel from Douglas Island. As of the 2010 census, the City and Borough had a population of 31,276. In 2014, the population estimate from the United States Census Bureau was 32,406, making it the second most populous city in Alaska after Anchorage. Fairbanks, however, is the second most populous metropolitan area in the state, with roughly 100,000 residents. Juneau's daily population can increase by roughly 6,000 people from visiting cruise ships between the months of May and September.

The city is named after a gold prospector from Quebec, Joe Juneau, though the place was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg (after Juneau's co-prospector, Richard Harris). The Tlingit name of the town is Dzántik'i Héeni ("Base of the Flounder’s River", dzánti ‘flounder’, –kʼi ‘base’, héen ‘river’), and Auke Bay just north of Juneau proper is called Áak'w ("Little lake", áa ‘lake’, -kʼ ‘diminutive’) in Tlingit. The Taku River, just south of Juneau, was named after the cold t'aakh wind, which occasionally blows down from the mountains.

Juneau is rather unusual among U.S. capitals (except Honolulu, Hawaii) in that there are no roads connecting the city to the rest of Alaska or to the rest of North America (although ferry service is available for cars). The absence of a road network is due to the extremely rugged terrain surrounding the city. This in turn makes Juneau a de facto island city in terms of transportation, since all goods coming in and out must go by plane or boat, in spite of the city being located on the Alaskan mainland. Downtown Juneau sits at sea level, with tides averaging 16 feet (5 m), below steep mountains about 3,500 feet (1,100 m) to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) high. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; two of these, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Lemon Creek Glacier, are visible from the local road system. The Mendenhall glacier has been gradually retreating; its front face is declining both in width and height.

The Alaska State Capitol in downtown Juneau was originally built as the Federal and Territorial Building in 1931. Prior to statehood, it housed federal government offices, the federal courthouse and a post office. It also housed the territorial legislature and many other territorial offices, including that of the governor. Today, Juneau remains the home of the state legislature and the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor. Some other executive branch offices have moved elsewhere in the state. Recent discussion has been focused between relocating the seat of state government outside of Juneau and building a new capitol building in Juneau; neither position has advanced very far.

History

Taku
Chief Anotklosh of the Taku tribe, circa 1913.

Long before European settlement in the Americas, the Gastineau Channel was a favorite fishing ground for the Auke (A'akw Kwáan) and Taku tribes, who had inhabited the surrounding area for thousands of years. The A'akw Kwáan had a village and burying ground here. In the 21st century it is known as Indian Point. They annually harvested herring during the spawning season, and celebrated this bounty.

Since the late 20th century, the A'akw Kwáan, together with the Sealaska Heritage Institute, have resisted European-American development of Indian Point, including proposals by the National Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They consider it sacred territory, both because of the burying ground and the importance of the point in their traditions of gathering sustenance from the sea. They continue to gather clams, gumboots, grass and sea urchins here, as well as tree bark for medicinal uses. The city and state supported Sealaska Heritage Institute in documenting the 78-acre site, and in August 2016 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. "It is the first traditional cultural property in Southeast Alaska to be placed on the register."

Descendants of these indigenous cultures include the Tlingit people. Native cultures have rich artistic traditions expressed in carving, weaving, orating, singing, and dancing. Juneau has become a major social center for the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian of Southeast Alaska.

European encounters

Although the Russians had a colony in the Alaska territory from 1784 to 1867, they did not settle in Juneau. They conducted extensive fur trading with Alaskan Natives of the Aleutian Islands and Kodiak. Some ships likely explored this area, but did not record it.

The first European to see the Juneau area is recorded as Joseph Whidbey, master of the Discovery during George Vancouver’s 1791–95 expedition. He and his party explored the region in July–August 1794. Early in August he viewed the length of Gastineau Channel from the south, noting a small island in mid-channel. He later recorded seeing the channel again, this time from the west. He said it was unnavigable, being filled with ice.

Mining era

After the California gold rush, miners migrated up the Pacific Coast and explored the West seeking other gold deposits. George Armstrong Custer led an Army expedition in the Black Hills of South Dakota to this purpose; his find of gold in 1874 attracted a rush of European-American miners, and the United States quickly took back the territory. It was part of the Great Sioux Reservation, where the US had promised to protect the Black Hills exclusively and forever for the Lakota Sioux in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

In 1880, Sitka mining engineer George Pilz offered a reward to any local chief in Alaska who could lead him to gold-bearing ore. Chief Kowee (Tlingit Kaawa.ée) arrived with some ore, and several prospectors were sent to investigate. On their first trip to Gold Creek, they found deposits of little interest. However, at Chief Kowee's urging, Pilz sent Joe Juneau and Richard Harris back to the Gastineau Channel, directing them to Snow Slide Gulch (the head of Gold Creek). There they found nuggets "as large as peas and beans," in Harris' words.

Juneau City, 1887
Juneau City in 1887

On October 18, 1880, the two men marked a 160-acre (650,000 m2) town site where soon a mining camp sprang up. Within a year, so many miners had arrived that the camp became a village, albeit made up mostly of tents and shacks rather than substantial buildings. It was the first European-American settlement to be founded in this territory after the United States purchased Alaska.

By the Autumn of 1881, the village had a population of over 100 and was known as Rockwell, after Lt. Com. Charles Rockwell; later it was known as Harrisburg after prospector Richard Harris. On 14 Dec. 1881, a miners' meeting of 72 persons decided to name the settlement Juneau, after prospector Joe Juneau. Perhaps they changed the name to be more distinctive, as another Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania.

Establishment of Russian Orthodox Church

Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Downtown Juneau, Alaska 3
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, built 1894 by Tlingit and Serbians in Juneau

Perhaps because of the pressure of this European encroachment, some Tlingit appealed to the Russian Orthodox Church. It had given services in northern Tlingit settlements in local languages since 1800 and 1824. One of its priests had translated scripture and liturgy into the Tlingit language in the 1830s–1840s. The Tlingit arranged for an Orthodox priest to come to their settlement in Juneau. In 1890, some 700 people converted, following chief Yees Gaanaalx and his wife of Auke Bay. The Orthodox Church Missionary Society supported the Tlingit in furnishing and constructing a church for this large congregation.

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was completed in 1894 and has maintained a strong presence among the Tlingit, Serbians, and other Europeans who followed this church. The iconostasis has six large panels sent from Russia.

Development of mining

During this time period, prospector and placer miner John Lemon operated in what is today the Lemon Creek area. The neighborhood that developed there was named for him by early settlers, as have been several other landmarks in Juneau.

Major mining operations in the Juneau mining district prior to World War II included the Treadwell Mine, The Alaska-Juneau Mine, and Alaska-Gastineau Mine.

In 1906, after the decline of whaling and the fur trade, Sitka, the original capital of Alaska, became less important and the territorial legislature moved the seat of government to Juneau. Juneau was the largest city in Alaska during the inter-war years, passing Fairbanks in the 1920 census. In the post-World War II years, it was displaced by Anchorage in 1950.

20th century

In 1911, the United States Congress authorized funds for construction of a capitol building for the Alaska Territory. Because of World War I, construction was delayed, and there were difficulties purchasing the necessary land. Local citizens of Juneau donated some of the required funds, and construction began on September 8, 1929. Construction of the capitol took less than two years, and the building was dedicated as the Federal and Territorial Building on February 14, 1931. It was designed by Treasury Department architects in the Art Deco architectural style. The building was originally used by the federal government to house the federal courthouse and post office for the territory. Since Alaska gained statehood in 1959, the building has been used by the state government.

The Alaska Governor's Mansion was commissioned under the Public Building Act in 1910. The mansion was designed by James Knox Taylor in the Federal style. Construction was completed in 1912. The territorial governor at that time was the first governor to inhabit the mansion, and he held the first open house for citizens on January 1, 1913. The area of the mansion is 14,400 square feet (1,340 m2). It contains ten bathrooms, six bedrooms, and eight fireplaces. The governor resides here when in Juneau on official business. In June 1923, President Warren G. Harding became the first president to visit Alaska. Harding visited the Governor's Mansion while Territorial Governor Scott Bone, who was appointed by Harding, was in office. Harding spoke from the porch of the mansion explaining his policies and met with attendees.

Robert Atwood, then publisher of the Anchorage Times and an Anchorage "booster," was an early leader in efforts to move the capital to Fairbanks, which many in both cities resisted. Some supporters of a move wanted a new capital to be at least 30 miles (48 km) from Anchorage and Fairbanks, to prevent either city from having undue influence. Juneau has continued as the capital. In the 1970s, voters passed a plan to move the capital to Willow, a town 70 miles (110 km) north of Anchorage. But pro-Juneau people there and in Fairbanks persuaded voters also to approve a measure (the FRANK Initiative) requiring voter approval of all bondable construction costs before building could begin. Alaskans later voted against spending the estimated $900 million. A 1984 "ultimate" capital-move vote also failed, as did a 1996 vote.

Downtown Juneau with Mount Juneau rising in the background
Downtown Juneau, with Mount Juneau in the background.

Juneau remains the capital. Once Alaska was granted statehood in 1959, Juneau's population increased along with the growth of state government. After construction of the Alaska Pipeline in 1977, the state budget was flush with oil revenues, and it expanded programs for the people. That growth slowed considerably in the 1980s.

In 2005 the state demographer projected slow growth in the borough for the next twenty years. Cruise ship tourism has expanded rapidly, from approximately 230,000 passengers in 1990 to nearly 1,000,000 in 2006, as cruise lines have built more and larger ships—even 'mega-ships.' They have sailed to Juneau seven days a week instead of six, and over a longer season, but the cruising tourism is still primarily a summer industry. It provides few year-round jobs but stimulates summer employment in the city.

In 2010, the city was recognized as part of the "Playful City USA" initiative by KaBOOM!, created to honor cities that ensure that their children have great places to play.

Juneau is larger in area than the state of Delaware and was, for many years, the country's largest city by area. Juneau continues to be the only U.S. state capital located on an international border: it is bordered on the east by Canada. It is the U.S. state capital whose namesake was most recently alive: Joe Juneau died in 1899, a year after Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian leader for whom Bismarck, North Dakota was named.

The city was temporarily renamed UNO, after the card game, on April 1, 2016 (April Fool's Day). The change was part of a promotion with Mattel to draw "attention to new wild cards in [the] game". For Juneau's cooperation, Mattel donated $15,000 "to the Juneau Community Foundation in honor of late Mayor Greg Fisk."

Geography

Douglas Island as seen from mainland Juneau, Alaska
Douglas Island as seen from mainland Juneau, Alaska. The island is connected to the mainland by the Juneau-Douglas Bridge.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 3,255 square miles (8,430 km2), making it the third-largest municipality in the United States by area (the largest is Yakutat City and Borough, Alaska). 2,716.7 square miles (7,036 km2) of it is land and 538.3 square miles (1,394 km2) of it (16.54%) is water.

Central (downtown) Juneau is located at . The City and Borough of Juneau includes Douglas Island, a tidal island located to the west of mainland Juneau. Douglas Island can be reached via the Douglas Bridge.

As is the case throughout Southeast Alaska, the Juneau area is susceptible to damage caused by natural disasters. The 2014 Palma Bay earthquake caused widespread outages to telecommunications in the area due to damage to a fiber optic cable serving the area. In April 2008, a series of massive avalanches outside Juneau heavily damaged the electrical lines providing Juneau with power, knocking the hydroelectric system offline and forcing the utility to switch to a much more expensive diesel system.

Adjacent boroughs and census areas

Border area

Juneau, Alaska, shares its eastern border with the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is the only U.S. state capital to border another country.

  • Stikine Region, British Columbia – northeast, east

National protected areas

  • Tongass National Forest (part)
    • Admiralty Island National Monument (part)
      • Kootznoowoo Wilderness (part)
    • Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness (part)

Climate

Downtown Juneau, Alaska at night
Downtown Juneau, Alaska at night.

The Juneau area is in a transition zone between a continental climate (Köppen Dfb/Dfc), and an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb/Cfc), depending on the isotherm used. The city is milder in winter than its latitude may suggest, due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean. Winters are moist and long, but mild by Alaskan standards: the average low temperature is 23 °F (−5 °C) in January, and highs are frequently above freezing. Spring, summer, and fall are warmer than winter, with highs peaking in July at 65 °F (18.3 °C). Snowfall averages 87.4 inches (222 cm) and occurs chiefly from November to March. Precipitation falls on an average 230 days per year, averaging 62.27 inches (1,580 mm) at the airport (1981–2010 normals), but ranging from 55 to 92 inches (1,400 to 2,340 mm), depending on location. The spring months are the driest while September and October are the wettest. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Juneau was −22 °F (−30.0 °C) on February 2, 1968 and January 12, 1972. The hottest temperature was 90 °F (32.2 °C) on July 7, 1975.

Records have been officially kept at downtown Juneau from January 1890 to June 1943, and at Juneau International Airport since July 1943; the normals and record temperatures for both downtown and the airport are provided below.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 1,253
1900 1,864 48.8%
1910 1,644 −11.8%
1920 3,058 86.0%
1930 4,043 32.2%
1940 5,729 41.7%
1950 5,956 4.0%
1960 6,797 14.1%
1970 6,050 −11.0%
1980 19,528 222.8%
1990 26,751 37.0%
2000 30,711 14.8%
2010 31,276 1.8%
Est. 2015 32,756 4.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2010 census, there were 31,275 people, 12,187 households, and 7,742 families residing in the city/borough. The population density was 11.3 per square mile (4.4/km2). There were 13,055 housing units at an average density of 4.0 per square mile (1.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city/borough was 69.4% White (67.4% Non-Hispanic White), 0.9% African American, 11.8% Native American, 6.1% Asian (4.5% Filipino, 0.3% Other Asian, 0.3% Chinese, 0.3% Korean, 0.2% Japanese, 0.1% Vietnamese), 0.7% Pacific Islander, and 1.2% from other races, and 9.5% from two or more races. 5.1% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 2.6% reported speaking Tagalog at home, and 2.4% reported speaking Spanish.

There were 11,543 households out of which 36.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.2% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.8% were non-families. 24.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.10.

The age distribution of Juneau was as follows: 27.4% of the population was under the age of 18, 8.1% were from 18 to 24, 32.8% from 25 to 44, 25.7% from 45 to 64, and 6.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city/borough was $62,034, and the median income for a family was $70,284. Males had a median income of $46,744 versus $33,168 for females. The per capita income for the city/borough was $26,719. 6.0% of the population and 3.7% of families were below the poverty line, including 6.7% of those under the age of 18 and 3.9% of those 65 and older.

Culture

JuneauPublicLibraryStainedGlass
A salmon-themed stained glass window in the Juneau Public Library expresses some of the city's heritage.

Juneau hosts the annual Alaska Folk Festival, Juneau Jazz & Classics music festival, and Celebration, a biennial Alaska Native cultural festival.

The city is home to Perseverance Theatre, Alaska's largest professional theater, and the non-profit Theatre in the Rough. The Juneau Symphony performs regularly. The Juneau Lyric Opera and Opera to Go are the two local opera companies. The JUMP Society hosts screenings of locally made short films two times a year.

Downtown Juneau has many art galleries that participate in the monthly First Friday Art Walk and annual Gallery Walk held in the first week of December. The Juneau Arts & Humanities Council coordinates events and operates the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, which features a community center, gallery and lobby shop. The University of Alaska Southeast Campus offers lectures, concerts, and theater performances. Sealaska Heritage, the nonprofit affiliate of the Sealaska Corporation, operates The Walter Soboleff Building which is decorated by carvings and hosts ongoing cultural exhibits.

Notable artists from Juneau include painter Rie Muñoz, printmaker Dale DeArmond, violinists Linda Rosenthal and Paul Rosenthal, Alaska Native carver and painter James Schoppert, playwright and filmmaker Gab Cody, theatre director Molly Smith, filmmaker Chuck D. Keen, writer and photographer Lynn Schooler, who authored The Blue Bear, Ishmael Hope, who wrote the videogame Never Alone and Janet Gardner, Singer of the hard rock band Vixen.

Transportation

Juneau is not directly accessible by road, although there are road connections to several areas immediately adjacent to the city. Primary access to the city is by air and sea. Cars and trucks are transported to and from Juneau by barge or the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system.

Alaska Marine Highway Ferry
An Alaska Marine Highway ferry boat docked in Juneau, Alaska.
Cruise Ships in Juneau Alaska
Juneau is a popular cruise ship destination.
Juneau International Airport
Alaska Airlines flight moments after landing at Juneau International Airport.
View of downtown Juneau, Alaska from the Juneau-Douglas Bridge
View of downtown Juneau, Alaska from the Juneau-Douglas Bridge. The bridge connects mainland Juneau with Douglas Island.

Sea

The State-owned ferry is called the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS). The Southeast ferries connect Juneau with the continental road system at Bellingham, Washington, Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and in Alaska at Haines and Skagway. There are also several taxicab companies, and tour buses used mainly for cruise ship visitors.

Air

See also: List of airports in the City and Borough of Juneau

Juneau International Airport serves the city and borough of Juneau. Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines are the sole commercial jet passenger operators. MarkAir and Western Airlines previously served Juneau. Alaska Airlines provides service to Seattle, Anchorage, and Sitka as well as to many small communities in the state. Delta Air Lines provides service to Seattle. Seattle is a common destination for Juneau residents. Wings of Alaska, Alaska Seaplanes, and Air Excursions offer scheduled flights on smaller aircraft to villages in Southeast Alaska. Some air carriers provide U.S. mail service.

Roads

Avalanche hazards, steep slopes, cold weather and environmental protection concerns are factors that make road construction and maintenance difficult and costly.

The Juneau-Douglas Bridge connects Juneau mainland with Douglas Island.

There are no roads connecting Juneau to the rest of North America. Juneau is one of only four state capitals not served by an Interstate highway. (Others are Dover, Delaware; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Pierre, South Dakota.)

Juneau Access Project

See also: Lynn Canal Highway

Juneau's roads remain separate from other roads in Alaska and in the Lower 48. However, fast car ferries connect Juneau with Haines and Skagway, needing around 5 hours travel time. There have been plans to connect Juneau to Haines and Skagway by road since before 1972, with funding for the first feasibility study acquired in 1987. The State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced in 2005 that the connection was to be provided partly by road, and partly by fast ferry. A 51-mile (82 km) road would be built on east side of Lynn Canal to a new ferry terminal at the Katzehin River estuary. A ferry would take cars from the terminal to Haines and Skagway, where the cars could then access the rest of North America. In 2006, the project was estimated to cost $258 million, and in 2007, the estimate was increased to $350 million. Annual costs have been estimated from $2.1 million to $12 million, depending on the length of the road. The Western Federal Lands Center estimates the project will cost $491 million. As of 2009, $25 million has been spent on the project.

Local opinions on constructing a road link to the outside world are mixed. Some residents see such a road as a much-needed link between Juneau and the rest of the world which will also provide great economic benefits to the city, while many other residents are concerned about the project's financial costs along with environmental and social impacts.

Citing the state’s multibillion-dollar financial crisis, Gov. Bill Walker announced on 15 December 2016 that the state is no longer backing construction of the Juneau Access Improvements Project.

Public transportation

Local government operates a bus service under the name Capital Transit.

Walking, hiking, and biking

Residents walk, hike, or ride bicycles for both recreational purposes and as transportation. The downtown area of Juneau has sidewalks, and the neighborhoods on the hill above downtown are accessible by foot. Some roads in the city also have bike lanes, and there is a bike path parallel to the main highway.

Utilities

Juneau is served by the following utilities:

  • Electric: Alaska Electric Light and Power Company
  • Water and Sewer: City and Borough of Juneau

Sister cities

Juneau has five official sister cities.

Images for kids


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