Anchorage houses suggested for historic status

Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Historical Commission has nominated two World War II-era cottages for the National Register of Historic Place.

But Mayor George Wuerch says the houses, located at Brown's Point on Government Hill, must be moved to make way for a better road to the Port of Anchorage.

''We have no objection to their being designated historic, but they need to be relocated,'' Wuerch said.

Government Hill residents say that would ruin the houses' historical integrity.

Anchorage Assemblyman Allan Tesche, who represents Government Hills, said it's nonsense to think the city needs a road that would cut into the bluff the houses sit on.

The two houses nominated for the register were built in 1941 for Gen. and Mrs. B.B. Talley and for another engineer, Capt. Craig Smyser.

Talley, Alaska engineer for the Corps of Engineers, oversaw nearly all military construction in Alaska between 1941 and 1943, including development of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson.

The houses are on a bluff overlooking Knik Arm, their original location.

The residents say they want the houses to stay where they are.

''They're so closely tied to the site on which they sit,'' said Thomas Pease, the co-president of the community council.

But Wuerch says the city can't restrict growth of the port and needs to knock off part of the hill on which the cottages sit to build a better road to the port.

The existing road has too much curve and is dangerous when icy, Wuerch said. ''Park your car and watch on loading day,'' he said. ''It's scary.''

In a letter to the historical commission last summer, Wuerch described a road cutting into the slope as ''one of the development scenarios.''

Tesche said before he'll accept the need for such a road, he wants to see ''compelling evidence of repeated accidents which require this solution over all others.'' Safety is just a pretext, he said.

Wuerch said historic buildings are moved all the time.

Being on the national register wouldn't prevent a move. The designation primarily recognizes a property's historical significance, said Linda Cook, a National Park Service superintendent here.

But if a proposed road or other development affecting the houses involved any federal funds, there would have to be an opportunity for different agencies to comment.

''There'd be a public process, Cook said.

State nominations to the national register are nearly always accepted, she said.

The Brown's Point houses would recognize the buildup for World War II in Anchorage and memorialize a piece of military history, the commission said.

They are the only structures left in Anchorage that are tied to Talley, commission member Mary Mangusso noted.

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