In the 60s and 70s, hippies popularized communes and in many cultures, it isn’t uncommon for families to live together for the duration of their lives. There are even cult-y situations, that often entail too many people living unnecessarily close together. The city of Whittier, Alaska, has a different arrangement set up, but it’s similar. The entire town lives under one roof. Quite literally.
An entire city population in one building seems a bit much, to say the least. However, between the constant rain, snow or 60-80mph winds in this remote, Alaskan environment, it’s both convenient and almost necessary.
Where is Whittier, Alaska and how far is it from Anchorage?
In North America but not the continental United States, the city of Whittier is located 58 miles southeast of Anchorage, at the head of Passage Canal. It’s usually passed by travelers on their way to the Prince William Sound.
How long is the tunnel to Whittier, Alaska?
The panoramic view of glaciers, mountains and ocean are a welcomed sight after the two and a half mile ride in America’s longest tunnel, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. Also referred to as Whittier Tunnel, it runs on a one way schedule, shuts down at 10:30 every night and is the only way to the city by land.
Where do you stay in Whittier, Alaska? With everyone else!
On the Whittier side of the tunnel, there aren’t many buildings. Or many anythings. Begich Towers and Buckner Building were the tallest buildings in the state of Alaska, at one point. They were initially intended to be barracks for US Army troops in Alaska during World War II. Out of ten, only two were built. The Buckner Building was damaged in the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, around the time the military left the area during the Cold War and it stands deserted to this day.
Begich Towers, on the other hand (or “Hodge Building”, after a colonel Walter Hodge) was completed in 1957 across from the Alaska railroad. The 14-story condominium is where the 218 people of Whittier live present day. The structure itself hold both housing, and the physical necessities of a small town. During the harsher climates, many Whittier residents don’t even leave the building, it holds everything they need. On the ground floor, near the entrance, there is a post office and the police station. American city officials work from the first floor, as well.
The building offers a laundromat, convenience store, grocery store and a small clinic. Church services are even held in the basement of the Begich Towers. An indoor playground (with sand) and a tunnel-linked school for the kids ensure nothing from a typical lifestyle is missing.
For visitors wanting to have the authentic Whittier experience, the two upmost floors are a bed and breakfast, “June’s Whittier Condo Suites”. For such an isolated spot, these adventurous souls don’t feel as though they are missing anything, they have community and some of the most scenic views in the country.
Not to mention gorgeous kayaking, a popular stop for cruise ships, especially Princess Cruises, and one of the world’s most fascinating underground tunnels.