National Geographic : 1988 Mar
must travel over 150 miles of rugged terrain. Modern Anchorage surely would appear as an Emerald City, a miracle of glass and steel, to those who witnessed its beginning in 1915 as a tent and log-cabin settlement-literally carved out of the wild-to serve construction of the Alaska Railroad; its name derived from the site's use as an anchorage for sloops and steamships traversing Cook Inlet. At its early peak the raw boomtown contained perhaps 6,000 workers and adventuresome entrepre neurs. When incorporated in 1920, the shack town was given a slight case of skyline fever by two- and three-story buildings housing a school, a movie theater, and a hotel; in 1923 it got a small, bumpy landing field to serve light aircraft and begin bush pilot legends treasured to this day. Until the mid-1930s, when the road to Palm er was built to accommodate new agricultural development in the Matanuska Valley (colo nized by some 200 midwestern rural families resettled with federal money), the only "high way" in Anchorage didn't go anywhere. Bob Atwood, publisher of the Anchorage Times, recalls: "A dirt road ran around Anchorage. If you wanted to take a Sunday afternoon drive, OIL HAS LEFT ITS SIGNATURE on the skyline, including the 21-story, 65-million-dollar headquartersofARCO Alaska, Inc., glow ing gold at far right.Anchorage's 1970 populationof 126,000 soared in 1986 to 250,000-nearlyhalf the state's total but then oil prices plummeted, and nearly 20,000 residentsmoved away last year.