SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Out With the Old and In With The ???



April 29, 2013
Monday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska
- We've clearly been due a little spring cleaning around Our Fair Salmon City.
jpg Dave Kiffer

And no, that does not extend to my hoarder's home office! Maybe next year!

The biggest spring cleaning took place a few months ago when the old hospital - AKA Bawden Street apartments finally gave way to a rocky park.

Recently, US Senator Lisa Murkowski and I commiserated that the place where we were both born no longer exists! There won't be any of those famous personages were born here plaques like they have on just about every old building in Europe. Oh well.

Anyway, the old hospital is gone and now we have an empty spot in the Downtown geography. Several folks have asked me what will go in its place.

Well, it's too late to say a new library or a new downtown fire station.

And the exact ownership of the site remains up in the air. It will be interesting to see what happens. I'm sure that some folks would like to see a parking garage go there, but I am inclined to think that if it can't be some useful new building, I would almost rather see an open space or a park.

A parking garage is always a popular option, but the challenge remains: on a typical summer day of 3 to 4 inches of sideways rain, do you really want to walk three or four blocks from the parking garage to the place of business.

Of course not.

We always need more parking. But we really need it RIGHT IN FRONT of the business we are attempting to patronize. As long as we insist upon using our automobiles as umbrellas, that will never change.

Which leads us right to another spring cleaning situation in Ktown. Another historic structure is no more.

Last year a fire gutted the old cable TV building, most recently a duty free shop clinging to the outside of the tunnel bluff.

It was built in 1914 and was the home of the one of the first cable TV stations in the world, when KATV began operating there in 1949. By 1953, it was broadcasting to most of the bars in town!

After the old hospital building was taken out, the cable building was cleared away as well. The ownership of that site is also under dispute, but it unlikely that another building will occupy that tiny, narrow stretch of land.

I'm sure that the other businesses in the area were hoping it could be turned into more parking for the visitor season, but instead there are large chunks of rock now on the site to prevent such an occurrence!

I suspect that site will also turn into some sort of green space/park area in the future and that does make a lot of sense.

You may not have noticed the third spring cleaning.

For most of my memory there was old house on the corner of Woodland and Park that was in various stages of disrepair. Most notably, it had what almost passed for thatched roof by Ketchikan standards.

It was actually just a thick patch of moss, but it was interesting how often I saw visitors pausing on their way along the Creek to snap photos of the old house with the moss roof (maybe they thought it was a sod house, maybe it was!).

At any rate, it is now gone too. No doubt the property owner wants to put a new house, one that can actually be lived in. As always, time marches on.

Although not a spring cleaning, I would be remiss if I didn't notice the final conversion of Talbot's Building Supply to a summer visitor industry emporium.

It comes only a few years before the 100th anniversary of that venerable Ketchikan establishment.

The 1927 era buildings actually harken back to a 1910s Lighthouse Service (Coast Guard forerunner) station. Talbots, which was founded as Parker and Talbots during the WWI, moved to the site in the 1920s where it was a prominent building on the Lutheran curve for generations.

I was one of many Ketchikan youngsters who learned to read by memorizing Talbot's block long sign, which heralded many items that seem, from the vantage point of the 2013, part of a lost world.

Talbots Coal Cement Lime Lath Plaster Brick and Tile.

It doesn't get any more old Ketchikan than that.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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