This historic mining town of Ester sits eight miles west of Fairbanks and is a one of Interior Alaska’s most spirited and lively communities.
Ester may be small but it’s not lacking for interesting and colorful residents. Populated by professors from the nearby University of Alaska Fairbanks, artists, writers and other creative souls, Ester takes pride in its independent spirit. Residents often refer to their community as the “independent people’s republic of Ester,” and they’re only half joking.
Gold mining still takes place in the hills surrounding Ester, but the town is now best known as an artist colony. The community is home to a number of galleries and studios that specialize in paintings, jewelry and photography and the Ester Community Market, staged weekly throughout the summer at the Ester Community Park. The open-air market features a wide range of locally produced art and products including honey, clothing, wrought-iron utensils, books and art prints.
The town was established in 1906, when miners made a sizable gold strike at Ester Creek. At one time Ester was a thriving community of 5,000, with three hotels and five saloons. The town came back to life in 1936 when the Fairbanks Exploration Company built Ester Camp to support a large-scale gold dredge operation. Today the camp is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its restored mess hall and bunkhouse have been used as a visitor attraction. Most of Ester’s historical buildings date from that era and were either built by the company or relocated from nearby Fox.