The fate of among Alaska’s a lot of historic yet disregarded structures might be decided Monday
MARK THIESSEN Associated Press
July 12, 2020, 4: 52 PM
4 minutes read
The fate of among Alaska’s most historic yet overlooked structures might be decided Monday as city officials in Seward weigh whether to destroy a former Methodist boarding school where the Alaska territorial flag was very first flown almost a century earlier and where its Alaska Native designer lived.
Benny Benson was among the orphans and displaced kids who lived at the Jesse Lee Home, many of whom were sent there after the Spanish influenza devastated Alaska Native towns. Benson, a 13- year-old Aleut young boy sent to the house after his mother passed away of the influenza, won a territory-wide contest in 1927 to develop the flag, which became the state flag after statehood was given in1959
Benson is believed to be the only Indigenous individual to develop a state flag, stated Dorene Lorenz, a previous Seward City Council member who has lagged efforts to save the structure for many years.
” I don’t understand why you would rush to destroy a landmark when there’s obvious interested parties wishing to present to you other alternatives,” she stated.
One such group, the Alaska Association for Historic Conservation, plans to make a last-ditch effort to conserve the structure by making a discussion during a public hearing before Monday’s scheduled vote. If successful, they will combine those with historic conservation expertise to develop a strategy.
” We got a great deal of individuals who are distressed to get dealing with this,” the group’s president, Trish Neal, stated. “Therefore I have no qualms that we can’t pull this off. It’s just we need to get the city council to back off and let us do this.”
What to do with the site has actually provided contention since the house was greatly harmed in a magnitude 9.2 earthquake in 1964, the 2nd most effective ever tape-recorded. One of the 3 main structures was damaged and demolished after the quake. The boarding school was eventually transferred to Anchorage, and the Seward site has sat unused since.
City authorities stated the home has weakened more in the last years in between engineering research studies, but Neal provided another engineer’s report from this spring that concluded while there has actually been deterioration in the last seven years, “restoration is a viable alternative,” but must be done quickly.
Attempts by people and a group for many years to refurbish the house have actually sputtered and stalled. Seward Mayor Christy Terry stated when the Buddies of the Jesse Lee Home lost a multimillion-dollar state grant a couple of years ago, ownership went back to the city. The Legislature allocated $1 million of that to the city.
” We do not have the capability right now to have a tribute to a building that’s so degraded due to the fact that of the inaction, honestly, of a group that was their really last chance to make that take place, that the state funded extremely well,” Terry stated. “Something like that is never ever going to take place again.”
She stated there is no rush to demolish the website but the council has a June 30, 2021, deadline to use state funding.
” For them to blame us for where we are now, they are sorely mistaken,” she stated. “So people wish to can be found in at the 13 th hour. Nobody has a check. No one has any concepts about how that home can be operated or what to do with it.”
If the council approves the demolition measure, the city would utilize the state money to eliminate hazardous products like asbestos, destroy the remaining two buildings and transport the material away. The proposal also calls for developing a memorial at the site.
That design would include neighborhood input, Terry stated, including she has her own ideas on what a memorial would consist of.
She wishes to restore any usable beams and incorporate them into a pavilion that would include storyboards defining the home’s place in Alaska history. The structure could be leased out, she said. Terry would also like to include a new play ground at the site and close another nearby play area, turning that lot into single-family real estate.
If the council doesn’t choose demolition, they will then later on think about other choices, consisting of one that would start refurbishing the buildings.
Retired Alaska State Historian Jo Antonson said the Jesse Lee House was an important organization in state history, keeping in mind that the Army utilized the structures during The second world war and even camouflaged them utilizing paint to secure them from the enemy.
” It’s just sort of disappointing that the city and the homeowners have never ever embraced trying to repair up the buildings that remain and find an excellent use for them,” she stated.
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