Whittier, Alaska

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Whittier, Alaska
Whittier, Alaska
Whittier is located in Alaska
Location in Alaska
Coordinates: 60°46′27″N 148°40′40″W / 60.77417°N 148.67778°W / 60.77417; -148.67778Coordinates: 60°46′27″N 148°40′40″W / 60.77417°N 148.67778°W / 60.77417; -148.67778
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Valdez-Cordova
Founded June 24, 1969[citation needed]
Incorporated July 15, 1969[1]
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Mayor Daniel Blair[2]
 • Total 19.7 sq mi (51.0 km2)
 • Land 12.5 sq mi (32.4 km2)
 • Water 7.2 sq mi (18.6 km2)
Elevation 43 ft (13 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 182
 • Density 14.5/sq mi (5.6/km2)
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP Code 99693
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-84510
GNIS feature ID 1415757

Whittier is a city in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of 2006, the population was 177.[3] The city is also a port for the Alaska Marine Highway.


Whittier is located at 60°46′27″N 148°40′40″W / 60.77417°N 148.67778°W / 60.77417; -148.67778 (60.774174, −148.677649).[4] The only land access is through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a mixed-use road and rail tunnel.

Whittier is on the northeast shore of the Kenai Peninsula, at the head of Passage Canal, on the west side of Prince William Sound. Whittier is 75 mi (121 km) southeast of Anchorage.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.7 square miles (51 km2), of which, 12.5 square miles (32 km2) of it is land and 7.2 square miles (19 km2) of it (36.36%) is water.


As of 2006, there were 177 people, 86 households, and 46 families residing in the city. The population density was 14.5 people per square mile (5.6/km²). There were 213 housing units at an average density of 17.0 per square mile (6.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 79.12% White, 7.14% Asian, 5.49% Native American, and 8.24% from two or more races. Two people (1.10% of the population) are Hispanic or Latino of any race. There were no measurable populations of African Americans, Pacific Islanders, or people from other races though on a summer visit, it is possible to meet people of diverse backgrounds living in the single residence in the city.

Of the 86 households, 29.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.9% were married couples living together, 4.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.5% were non-families. 39.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the city the age distribution of the population shows 22.0% under the age of 18, 2.7% from 18 to 24, 36.8% from 25 to 44, 31.9% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 111.6 males. For every ten females age 18 and over, there are 12.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,500, and the median income for a family was $51,875. Males had a median income of $53,500 versus $26,875 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,700. About 4.1% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.6% of those under the age of eighteen and none of those sixty five or over.


Climate data for Whittier, Alaska
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 31.2
Average low °F (°C) 22.9
Rainfall inches (mm) 18.89
Snowfall inches (cm) 47.6
Source: http://whittieralaska.gov/2005%20update%20Whittier%20Comp%20Plan.pdf


Whittier harbor

The Whittier Glacier near Whittier was named for the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1915.

During World War II the United States Army constructed a military facility, complete with port and railroad terminus near the glacier and named the facility Camp Sullivan. The spur of the Alaska Railroad to Camp Sullivan was completed in 1943 and the port became the entrance for United States soldiers into Alaska. The port remained an active army facility until 1960.

The two huge buildings that dominate Whittier were built after World War II. The 14-storey Hodge Building (now Begich Towers) was built for housing soldiers and the Buckner Building, completed in 1953, was called the "city under one roof". Both buildings were at one time the largest buildings in Alaska. The Begich Building is now a condominium. Together with the 2-storey Whittier Manor, Begich Building houses nearly all of Whittier's residents.[5] The port remained an active Army facility until 1960. Whittier was incorporated in 1969.

The town was severely damaged by tsunamis triggered by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake; thirteen people died due to waves that reached 13 m (43 ft).[6]

Whittier is a popular port of call for cruise ships, as it has connections to Anchorage and the interior of Alaska by both highway and rail. It is the embarkation/debarkation point of the Denali Express nonstop rail service to and from Denali National Park operated by Princess Tours. Whittier is also popular with tourists, sport fishermen and hunters.[citation needed]

Whittier is in the Chugach School District and has one school serving around 35 students from preschool through high school.[7]


Access to Whittier may be accomplished by various modes. There is a harbor and a deepwater port used by cruise ships and the Alaska Marine Highway. Whittier has one aircraft runway designated 3/21 with a gravel surface measuring 1,480 by 58 feet (451 x 18 m).There are no other facilities and the runway is not maintained in winter. For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2005, the airport had 700 aircraft operations, an average of 58 per month: 97% general aviation and 3% air taxi.At that time there were two single-engine aircraft based at this airport.[8] The runway was 500 feet longer but was damaged by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. The city also operates a seaplane dock.[9] By land, access is through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.

The Tunnel[edit]

An Alaska Railroad passenger train leaving Whittier towards the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel

Known by locals as the Whittier tunnel or the Portage tunnel, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is a tunnel through Maynard Mountain. It links the Seward Highway south of Anchorage with Whittier and is the only land access to the town.. It is part of the Portage Glacier Highway and at 13,300 feet (4,050 m), is the second longest highway tunnel, and longest combined rail and highway tunnel, in North America.[10]

Alaska Rail Connection[edit]

Whittier is Alaska Rail ARRC’s connection to the rail systems in Canada and the Lower 48 states (by way of rail barge).[11]

Buckner Building[edit]

The Buckner Building

The Buckner Building is an abandoned former U.S. military building in Whittier. It was constructed by the military in 1953 as a combined mess hall, sleeping quarters, recreational, medical and administrative facility[12] and was formerly one of the largest buildings in Alaska, often being referred to as "the city under one roof".[13] The building was slightly damaged by the 9.2 1964 Alaska earthquake, however damage was minimized by its reinforced concrete construction.[12] There was no structural damage to the building itself, and subsequent inspections found the building to be in good condition.[12] The building continued to operate until 1966, at which point it was shuttered due to the Port of Whittier being transferred to the Government Services Administration for disposal.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1996 Alaska Municipal Officials Directory. Juneau: Alaska Municipal League/Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs. January 1996. p. 161. 
  2. ^ "Community: Whittier". Community Database Online. Juneau: Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Division of Community and Regional Affairs. February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ http://www.alaskarails.org/route-map/whittier.html
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  5. ^ http://whittieralaska.gov/2005%20update%20Whittier%20Comp%20Plan.pdf page 11
  6. ^ West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. March 28, 1964 Gulf of Alaska Tsunami Damage along the California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska coasts.
  7. ^ http://whittier.gcisa.net/about.html Whittier community School website
  8. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for IEM (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2009-07-02.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ http://www.dot.state.ak.us/creg/whittiertunnel/index.shtml
  11. ^ http://whittieralaska.gov/2005%20update%20Whittier%20Comp%20Plan.pdf page 66
  12. ^ a b c d The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, Part 1. Washington D.C.: National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Alaska Earthquake. 1973. pp. 1077–1082. 
  13. ^ Reitter, Bart (2011). The Horseman: A Travel Memoir. iUniverse. p. 99. ISBN 9781450292320. 

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