History

VALDEZ IS RICH IN UNIQUE HISTORY

Valdez is the activity center for Prince William Sound; a mix of tidewater glaciers, rain forests, and mountains.  The growth and settlement of Valdez was attributed to fur trading, salmon canning, and gold and copper mining.  During the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98, prospectors came to Valdez believing the Copper River and Valdez Glacier to be the entry to the interior gold fields.  From 1910 to 1916, copper and gold mining flourished in the area.  In the early 1970’s, Valdez became the staging area for work on the lower portion of the Trans Alaska Pipeline.  Today, Valdez hosts the Valdez Marine Terminal, which is the southernmost end of the 800-mile pipeline. Valdez has several Museums. The Valdez Museum & Historical Archives. More information can be found at ValdezMuseum.org

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and the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum. More information can be found on their Facebook Page.

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Valdez has amazingly rich history that has shaped the community that exists today as well as played an important role in the development of the great state of Alaska.  Valdez’s humble beginnings laid the foundation for transportation in Alaska.   Valdez has been integral to transportation development within the state and has served as the gateway to Prince William Sound and the Interior.  Gold seekers came to Valdez to follow the “All-American Route” over the Valdez Glacier into the Interior.  A tent city sprang up at the head of the bay, thus Valdez was formed.  Realizing this wasn’t the best route, in late 1898, Abercrombie’s men began cutting a trail through Keystone Canyon and over Thompson Pass and in 1919, this trail became the Richardson Highway, Alaska’s first highway.

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Image courtesy of the Valdez Museum & Historical Archives.

Everything including the layout of our streets and the look of our buildings reminds us of events from our past.  On March 27, 1964, a 9.2 earthquake lasting over 4 minutes struck 45 miles West of Valdez.  The quake triggered an underwater landslide creating tremendous waves that washed away the Valdez waterfront, drowning 30 people on the dock and 3 men on the steamer ‘Chena’.  Soon after, the town was condemned when it was discovered it was built on unstable ground.  Town was relocated to it’s present site.  52 buildings were moved 4 miles East.  With the destruction of our community after the 1964 Earthquake, Valdez had the opportunity to plan the layout of streets and buildings which was unheard of at that time.  Most communities simply take shape as they grow.  Fires and snow removal and storage had a big impact on the outcome, which is no surprise considering over 300 inches fall on the city annually.  The 1960-70’s architecture reminds us that we are a new, rebuilt community.

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Image courtesy of the Valdez Museum & Historical Archives.

In 1973, Congress approved the plans for the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline.  The terminus of the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline rests on the South side of the Port of Valdez and can be viewed from any shore side point in the City. Valdez’s population soared.  Many residents remember the construction and people today can watch tankers coming and going transporting oil to the Lower 48.

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Image courtesy of the Valdez Museum & Historical Archives.

In 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh reef, approximately 25 miles outside of Valdez causing the largest oil spill in North American history.  The oil spill of 1989 caused an influx of people to Valdez to help with the clean up efforts.  During this time, new buildings were erected.  The building that housed the command center is now one of our hotels.  All of these aspects are constant reminders to residents and visitors of how much we have overcome.

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Photo of Valdez Alaska in the Summer . (Image by Alaska Photography Co.)

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