Whittier, Alaska

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Whittier, Alaska
Whittier Skyline
Whittier Skyline
Whittier, Alaska is located in Alaska
Whittier, Alaska
Whittier, 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]
 • State senator Mike Dunleavy (R)
 • State rep. Jim Colver (R)
 • 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 (2010)
 • Total 220
 • Estimate (2014)[3] 217
 • Density 11/sq mi (4.3/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 2014, the population estimate was 217.[4] The city is also a port for the Alaska Marine Highway.


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 two huge buildings that dominate Whittier were built after World War II. The 14-story Hodge Building (now Begich Towers) completed in 1957 contained 150 two and three bedroom apartments plus bachelor efficiency units. Dependent families and Civil Service employees were moved into this efficient high rise. The new Whittier School was connected by a tunnel at the base of the west tower so students could go to school in short sleeves on the very worst weather days. The building was originally named in honor of Colonel Walter William Hodge Civil Engineer, the commanding officer of 93rd Engineer Regiment on the Alcan Highway.[5] The other structure, the Buckner Building, had been completed in 1953, and 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-story Whittier Manor, Begich Building houses nearly all of Whittier's residents.[6] The port remained an active Army facility until 1960. A petroleum products terminal was constructed in Whittier along with a pumping station and 62 mile long 8" pipeline to Anchorage by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1962.[7][8][9]

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).[10]

Whittier is an increasingly-popular port of call for cruise ships. It has long been utilized by local operations and the 100+-passenger mid-sized cruise ships. When its connections to Anchorage and the interior of Alaska went from exclusively rail to both highway and rail in 2001, it began to be utilized by massive cruise lines, as well. 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, photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, kayakers, hikers, 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.[11]


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).[12] 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.


Whittier has a borderline subarctic (Dfc) and subpolar oceanic (Cfc) under the Köppen climate classification; and with an annual precipitation of 197.8 inches (5,024.12 mm) is the wettest city in Alaska and the United States, receiving significantly more annual precipitation than Yakutat and Ketchikan which are the second and third wettest cities in Alaska respectively. Whittier is located at the northern tip of the northernmost temperate rainforest.

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
Average rainfall inches (mm) 18.89
Average snowfall inches (cm) 47.6
Source: Whittier – Comprehensive Plan Update 2005, p. 7, September 26, 2005


Historical population
Census Pop.
1950 627
1960 809 29.0%
1970 130 −83.9%
1980 198 52.3%
1990 243 22.7%
2000 182 −25.1%
2010 220 20.9%
Est. 2014 217 [13] −1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[14]

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 city.

An unusual aspect of Whittier is that virtually its entire population lives within the 14-story Begich Towers building.[15][16]

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.


City government consists of a 7-member council with a mayor and 6 members representing seats (A to G).[17]

The small city has three key departments:

  • Administration
  • Public Safety
  • Public Works and Public Utilities


Whittier Police Department is the main police force in the small community.

Whittier Fire Department is a volunteer fire and rescue service with mutual aid from neighboring departments.[18]


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.

Airfield and Water Aerodrome[edit]

Whittier Airport (PAWR) is an airfield with one aircraft runway designated 4/22 (formerly 3/21) with a gravel surface measuring 1,480 by 60 feet (451 x 18 m).[19] 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.[20] The runway was 500 feet longer but was damaged by the 1964 Good Friday earthquake.

The city also operates a seaplane dock.[21]


By land, access is through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.


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.[22]

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).[23]


  1. ^ 1996 Alaska Municipal Officials Directory. Juneau: Alaska Municipal League/Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs. January 1996. p. 161. 
  2. ^ 2015 Alaska Municipal Officials Directory. Juneau: Alaska Municipal League. 2015. p. 165. 
  3. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-08-14. 
  4. ^ "Whittier city, Alaska". American FactFinder; US Census Bureau. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "The History and Military Significance of Whittier, Alaska". Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  6. ^ http://whittieralaska.gov/2005%20update%20Whittier%20Comp%20Plan.pdf page 11
  7. ^ http://www.alaskarails.org/historical/whittier-history/
  8. ^ http://www.alaskarails.org/historical/whittier-history/history.pdf
  9. ^ http://books.google.com/books/about/Whittier_to_Anchorage_Alaska.html?id=oHP5GgAACAAJ
  10. ^ West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. March 28, 1964 Gulf of Alaska Tsunami Damage along the California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska coasts.
  11. ^ http://whittier.gcisa.net/about.html Whittier community School website
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  13. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Northern Enclosure: Alaska's One-House Town, Home to Hundreds (CNN)". Retrieved July 29, 2015.  (Archive)
  16. ^ "Around the Nation: Welcome To Whittier, Alaska, A Community Under One Roof". NPR. Jan 18, 2015. Retrieved Jan 1, 2016. 
  17. ^ http://www.whittieralaska.gov/mayor_city_council.html
  18. ^ http://www.whittieralaska.gov/public_safety_department.html
  19. ^ http://www.airnav.com/airport/PAWR
  20. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for IEM (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2009-07-02.
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ ©Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, all rights reserved. "Whittier Tunnel, Transportation & Public Facilities, State of Alaska". Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  23. ^ http://whittieralaska.gov/2005%20update%20Whittier%20Comp%20Plan.pdf page 66

External links[edit]