June 25 – Juneau – Alaska’s State Capitol

I awoke early and looking out our cabin window just in time to catch the sun raising about the mountains to the east of the Gasineau Channel.

While Debbie slept in … is was only a few minutes after 5:00 AM, I headed for a cup of coffee and the rear of deck 9 where the vistas were amazing!


Another cruise shop headed for Juenau

Another whale

And still another whale

About the time Debbie joined me, the Juneau harbor pilot arrived to guide the ship into its berth … although still another five hours before acutally mooring..

Meanwhile the spectacular views continued right up through the time we pulled into the pier in Juneau.

Once off the ship, we finaly got to see just how big it really was.

The City and Borough of Juneau , commonly known as Juneau, is the second largest city in the U.S. by area (3,255 sq. miles).   Juneau has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government was moved from Sitka as dictated by the U.S. COngress in 1900The municipality unified on July 1, 1970, when the city of Juneau merged with the city of Douglas, directly across the channel, and the surrounding Greater Juneau Borrough to form the current municipality, which is larger by area than both Rhode Island and Delaware.  The downtown area is nestled at the base of Mount Juneau.  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, although Fairbanks is the second most populated metropolitan area 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).

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, below steep mountains about 3,500 feet  to 4,000 feet high.  Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; two of these, the Mendenahll 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.

In the 1870s, George Pitz, a mining engineer from Sitka offered a reward to anyone who could lead him to gold-bearing ore.  Chief Kowee, of the Auk Tlingit Tribe, arrived with ore samples from the Gastineau Channel.  Pitz enticed prospectors Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau to investigate.  The pair reached the Gastineau Channel in August 1880 and found plenty of color, but didn’t follow the gold to its sauces.  At Chief Kowee urging, Harris and Juneau were sent back and discovered a “mother lode” in Silver Bow Basin.  On October 18, 1880, they staked a 160-acre town on the beach.  Soon they were joined by boat loads of prospectors seeking their fortune in gold.  Juneau was born.

Within a few years, Juneau grew from a seasonal Native fishing camp to one of the hubs of a large-scale hard-rock mining industry.  The surrounding hills were honeycombed by two mines; the Alaska-Juneau Mine and the Alaska-Gastineau Mine. 

On Douglas Island, the ground once reverberated with the 960 stamps from the mills of the once-renowned Treadwell Gold Mining Company.  That mine reached its peak production in 1915, two years before a cave-in flooded three of Treadwell’s four mines, ending the Treadwell era.  Shortages of manpower and supplies brought about by World War II lead to the closure of the Alaska=Juneau Mine in 1944.  The only remnant of these mines sits in decay above the city of Juneau.

Still, today, there are more miles of mining tunnels within Mount Roberts than there re roads in Juneau.

As one reason for the crisue was to visit Alaska's State Capitol Building, we headed off in that direction, passing several statues along the way.

Windfall Fisherman – Summer is the bountiful time of easy living for brown bears in southeast Alaska, and they have arranged their lives to advantage stuffing themselves on greens, berries, roots and salmon while the season affords and retiring to sleep the winter in fat comfort.

William Henry Seward (May 16, 1801 – October 10, 1872) was U.S. Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869, and earlier served as Governor of New York and a U.S. Senator.  A determined opponent of the spread of slavery in the years leading up to the American Civial War, he was a dominant figure in th Republican Party during its formative years and was praised for his work on behalf of the Union as Secretary of State during the CIvil War.  As the 1860 presidential election approached, he was regarded as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. Several factors, including attitudes to his vocal opposition to slavery, his support for immigrants and Catholics, and his association with editor and New York political boss Therlow "Boss" Tweed , worked against him and Abraham Lincoln secured the presidential nomination.  Although devastated by his loss, he campaigned for Lincoln, who was elected and appointed him Secretary of State.  Seward did his best to stop the southern states from seceding; once that failed, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the Union cause. His firm stance against foreign intervention in the Civil War helped deter the United Kingdom and France from entering the conflict and possibly gaining the independence of the Confederate States.  He was one of the targets of the 1865 assassination pliot  that killed Lincoln, and was seriously wounded by conspirator Lewis Powell.  Seward remained loyally at his post through the presidency of ANdrew Johnson, during which he negotiated the Alaska Purcahse in 1867 and supported Johnson during hisimpeachment.  A contemporary described Seward as "one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints"

We noticed that every parking garage was adorned by a colorful mural or bas relief with an Alaskan theme.

Before leaving the city, we discovered many more murals,

On the front of Juneau City Hall

ever-present ravens everywhere,

Clever and humerous signs,

a chalkboard on which city residents and tourists could leave messages.

We found it baffling one would see a motorhome in the city … as there are only 40 miles of roads, not leading anywhere.


Finally, the Alaskan State Capitol

The building was completed in 1931 to serve as a Territorial and Federal Building at a total cost of $1 million.  When Alaska became a state in 1959, the building was given to the state to serve as its Capitol.  In 2017, a four-year, $36 million renovation was completed.  The renovations were necessary in order to retrofit the structure to resist seismic forces, improve energy efficiency, and restore the art deco exterior to its original grandeur.  Many of the furnishings found along its hallways are originals or reproductions to reflect the period when the building was first opened.

The marble in the lobby and throughout the building is Tokeen and Gravina marble,  It came from Prince of Wales Island located south of Jueeau near Ketchikan.

Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich in honor of her battle against racial discrimination during Alaska territorial days.  Born on July 4, 1911 in Petersburg, Alaska, Mrs. Peratrovich and her husband Roy were Tlingit Native Leaders who put forth significate personal effort into the successful lobbying for the Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act.

The relief artwork depicting life in the 1930s are stone-fired clay murals.

"Harvest and the Land" depicts Alaska natives hunting in the interior

"Harvest of the Sea" shows fishermen on the Alaska coastal waters

Senate Finance Committee Room (original Superior Court of Judicial Branch One) restored to period.

World War II Russian Ferry Pilots (gifts from Russia)

Just a sampling of the scores of newspapers on display throughout the Capitol

House of Representatives Chamber

Senate Chamber and doors

Period pieces in the hallways


Hand carved office doors

Map of Alaska made from a piece of the Alaska Pipeline pipe.  The weld line represents the route of teh 48" pipeline.

An incredible Alaskan Quilt in the Lieutenant Governor's office from a college classmate.

An Athabascan Beaded Baby Strap in the Governor's office

Gold and silver imbedded state seal.

Earrings wron by a State Seanator symbnolizing speaches going "in" one ear and "out" the other.

Clear evidence of global warming form two photos taken in 1973 (Black & White photo) and 2007 (color photo)

Nearby the Capitol is a famous totem pole.

We also visited the Juneau–Douglas City Museum which provides a history of the city from its earlies days through the Russian and gold prospecting ear and on into the present.

After leaving the museum, we visited St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. Built in 894, it is the oldest original Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska.


This building was constructed in 1893-94 in Juneau with local timber and local labor.  However, confusion often arises because the architectural plans, funds for the construction and the interior furnishings, including the icon screen (called an iconostasis) and the six large icons at the front of the church were shipped from Russia.

The floor plan of the Orthodox Church is based on the ancient temple in Jerusalem.  Like the ancient temple, most orthodox churches have three distinct sections …

  • The Narthex or outer room – where ritual purifications were done.
  • The Nave – where people stood in the ancient temple while the priests offered the sacrifice.
  • The Altar – is the entire area behind the iconostasis.

Just outside the chruch is a memorial to local Japanese residents who were interred during World War II

And, just across the street is another memorial to Japanese internees, "The Empty Chair".

Nearby are two other interesting, but locked, churches

Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin MAry

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

Strolling through the rather condensed city proper … 

1947 Ford

USS Juneau (CL-51) Memorial –  The thirteenth of November 1942, was the last day in the life of eight ships (and hundreds of sailors) including the USS Juneau

during the naval Battle of Guadalcanal.  Juneau was in the thick of the battle until an enemy torpedo knocked her out of action.  Retiring from the battle, an enemy submarine took Juneau in her sights and at 11:01 Am, another torpedo found it mark.  The cruiser disintegrated instantaneously and completely.  All but 10 members of her crew of 700 perished, including the five Sullivan brothers

Fisherman's Memorial

Pier Sculptures

Flowers Everywhere

During our stroll through the center of the city, we saw two float planes land … difficult to see as our live of sight was partially locked by mooring lines from our ship.

Instead of eating out, we opted to head back to the ship for "wine time" and dinner.

Just a few minutes ago, the ship left its bearth

as it begins to make it way toward Glacier Bay



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