Wickersham State Historic Site

Wickersham State Historic Site

Experience the history of Alaska's territorial days at the House of Wickersham

Step back in time thorough the doors of the House of Wickersham, the first large Victorian home built on "Chicken Ridge", the "Nob Hill" of Juneau. Sip tea from an elegant bone china cup and drink in the history of Alaska's territorial days as seen through the life of the man responsible for "Home Rule", the Alaska Railroad, the University of Alaska and Denali National Park.

History

With the gold discoveries of the Klondike and Nome, hordes of prospectors arrived, and corruption was rampant and claim jumping increased. By 1900, new criminal and civil codes, as well as the expansion of the U.S. District Court system brought the first law and order to the Interior. The 3rd Judicial Division, comprised of 300,000 square miles, was the responsibility of the new District Court Judge, James Wickersham.

Eagle City, a town on the Yukon River, was the official headquarters for the 3rd Judicial District. Here, after building his modest log home, Wickersham began settling mining claim disputes and collecting saloon license fees. He held the position for seven terms, from 1900 to 1907 and covered 1,000 miles round trip by steamer or dog team. Wickersham also held court in the Aleutians and along the coast aboard U.S. Revenue cutters.

At age 45, he had the distinction of being one of the first to attempt the summit of Mt. McKinley. Eventually, as a delegate to Congress, Wickersham won legislation that created Mt. McKinley National Park, now Denali National Park and Preserve. In 1903, District Court headquarters were moved to the new hub of Fairbanks and Wickersham moved with it. He rounded out his career as a delegate to Congress from 1909-1920 and from 1931-1933.

Judge Wickersham finally settled in Juneau and purchased the Wickersham house in 1928. The house was built on the ridge overlooking downtown Juneau in 1898 and the judge lived in it with his wife until his death in 1939 at age of 82.

In 1963, Wickersham's niece, Ruth Allman recognized the historical value of the judge's collection of photographs, artifacts, diaries and scrapbooks, and opened the home to visitors for a quarter century. In 1984, the house and its contents were purchased by the State of Alaska and established as a state historic site.

Activities

Today, visitors can step back in time as they tour the House of Wickersham, which displays historical photographs, Alaskan relics and period furnishings that illustrate what life was like in the Gold Rush Era. The tour also offers a personal glimpse into the life and legacy of James Wickersham, who is credited with leading the establishments of "Home Rule", the Alaska Railroad, the University of Alaska and Mount McKinley National Park.

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