Juneau, Alaska — Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett joined Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford of Juneau today to celebrate the Preserve America Community designation awarded to the City of Juneau on August 14. A designation certificate signed by First Lady Laura Bush, Honorary Chair of Preserve America, and a community road sign were presented to the deputy mayor, recognizing Juneau’s work to preserve, protect and celebrate its unique heritage.
“Preserve America communities demonstrate that they are committed to preserving America’s heritage while ensuring a future filled with opportunities for learning and enjoyment,” Mrs. Bush said. “This community designation program, combined with the Preserve America Presidential Awards and federal support, provides strong incentives for continued preservation of our cultural and natural heritage resources. I commend Juneau and its leaders for their commitment to preserving an important part of our nation’s historic past for visitors, neighbors, and, most importantly, for children.”
“Sustainable preservation is not a cost for maintaining the past; it is an investment in building the future,” said Scarlett. “Preserve America Communities, such as Juneau, are leaders in this trend and have created powerful, positive examples for others to tell their stories and thus encourage heritage tourism, education and historic preservation.”
“Juneau, Alaska's Capital City, is honored to be recognized as a Preserve America Community,” said Mayor Bruce Botelho. “Preserving and maintaining our historic treasures for future generations' education and enjoyment has always been a priority for the City and Borough of Juneau.”
Juneau’s designation as a Preserve America Community provides national
recognition for what the community has achieved, while also enhancing the
contribution of heritage tourism and other economic development strategies.
This unique designation indicates that the community is working to preserve
and use its heritage assets as building blocks for the future. In addition
to Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka are also designated Preserve America communities
Juneau (pop. 31,000) is situated in southeastern Alaska, surrounded by spectacular mountains, glaciers and rainforest. Its history dates back more than ten thousand years to original Native Alaskan tribes, and later to Russian traders and settlers.
When gold was discovered in 1880 near the site of what soon became downtown Juneau, hundreds of miners, merchants and laborers arrived from all over the world to work in the local mines and businesses. After the loose gold in the streambeds ran out, new efficient technology for extracting gold from underground mines was developed in Juneau and used worldwide.
In 1900, Juneau was incorporated and named the seat of government for the Alaska Territory, and government operations later moved to Juneau in 1906. Appropriately, Juneau was the site of the official statehood ceremony in 1959 when Alaska became the 49th state. Juneau today is home to a blend of Native Alaskans, Pacific Islanders, and descendants of the gold speculators. A significant portion of the local population works for the state, federal, or local governments, or in the burgeoning tourism industry.
Many of the buildings built in Juneau in the late 1800s still stand. Within the original downtown, there are approximately 60 buildings built before 1904, and 140 built before 1914. Another notable feature of the downtown area are the colorful totem poles. Totem pole carving remains a vital part of Native life in southeast Alaska and an important cultural legacy of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians.
Since the 1980s, the City and Borough of Juneau have taken an active role in preserving local historic and cultural resources, resulting in 11 designated historic neighborhoods, and two historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The discovery in 1991 of the Montana Creek Fish Trap, a 500-700 year old fishing feature, has revived interest in the Native history of the area and spawned an extensive educational and tour program as well as construction of a replica through the Alaska State Museum. A former library listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the first building constructed as a library in Alaska has now become the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. A historic downtown Juneau guide produced by the museum highlights historic sites, buildings, and totem poles and other public art.
About Preserve America: Preserve America is a White House initiative to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of our priceless cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the initiative include a greater shared knowledge about the nation’s past, strengthened regional identities and local pride, increased local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets, and support for the economic vitality of our communities. For more information on the Preserve America initiative, visit www.PreserveAmerica.gov.