The History of Wainwright

Wainwright is located on the Chukchi Sea coast, 3 miles northeast of the Kuk River estuary. It lies at approximately 70 38' N Latitude, 160 01' W Longitude (Sec. 24, T015N, R032W, Umiat Meridian). The community is located in the Barrow Recording District. The area encompasses 4 sq. miles of land and 12 sq. miles of water.

In 1826, the Wainwright Lagoon was named by Capt. F.W. Beechey for his officer, Lt. John Wainwright. A map of 1853 indicates the name of the village as "Olrona." Its Inupiat name was "Olgoonik." The region around Wainwright was traditionally well-populated, though the present village was not established until 1904, when the Alaska Native Service built a school here and instituted medical and other services. The site was reportedly chosen by the captain of the ship delivering school construction materials, because sea-ice conditions were favorable for landing. A post office was established in 1916. Coal was mined at several nearby sites for village use, the closest about 7 miles away. Today, though, most houses are heated by fuel oil. An Air Force Distance Early Warning Station was constructed nearby.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

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