ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog Arctic & Northern Books About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth



The History of Juneau, Alaska


Photo of Juneau, Alaska, from Douglas Island. Located on the mainland of Southeast Alaska, Juneau was built at the heart of the Inside Passage along the Gastineau Channel. It lies 900 air miles northwest of Seattle and 600 air miles southeast of Anchorage. It lies at approximately 58 18' N Latitude, 134 24' W Longitude (Sec. 23, T041S, R067E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Juneau Recording District. The area encompasses 2,594 sq. miles of land and 488 sq. miles of water.

The area was a fish camp for the indigenous Tlingit Indians. In 1880, nearly 20 years before the gold rushes to the Klondike and Nome, Joe Juneau and Richard Harris were lead to Gold Creek by Chief Kowee of the Auk Tribe. They found mother lode deposits upstream, staked their mining claims, and developed a 160 acre incorporated city they called Harrisburg, which brought many prospectors to the area. The state capital was transferred from Sitka to Juneau in 1906 while Alaska was a U.S. Territory. The Treadwell and Ready Bullion mines across the channel on Douglas Island became world-scale mines, operating from 1882 to 1917. In 1916, the Alaska-Juneau gold mine was built on the mainland, and became the largest operation of its kind in the world. In 1917, a cave-in and flood closed the Treadwell mine on Douglas. It produced $66 million in gold in its 35 years of operation. Fishing, canneries, transportation and trading services, and a sawmill contributed to Juneau's growth through the early 1900s. Mining declined by the 1930s, and the A-J Mine closed in 1944 when it was declared a nonessential wartime activity. The A-J produced over $80 million in gold. Alaska became the 49th state in 1959.


A Guide to Juneau, Alaska

Alaska Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online


Photograph is © 2000-2009 by Murray Lundberg.

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development