Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska … It started as a mining camp in 1880, become the capital of the 49th state in 1959 and now is the host to over one million cruise ship passengers a year.

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1 Alaska State Capitol State Seal in Juneau, Alaska

This ornate, wooden version of Alaska’s state seal is behind the senate president’s desk in the senate chamber of the capitol building in Juneau. The symbols represent many of the unique features of the 49th state, including their mining, marine and rail transportation, abundant forests, agriculture, plentiful wildlife and the aurora borealis or northern lights over a mountain range.

120 4th St, Juneau, AK 99801
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2 Alaska State Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska

This art deco capitol, with its Doric marble columns and limestone portico, was called the Federal and Territorial Building when it was built in 1931 and before Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959. Juneau has the distinction of being the only U.S. capital city that can’t be reached by a road – only by boat or plane – despite having the second largest land mass in the country.

120 4th St, Juneau, AK 99801
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3 Alaska State Capitol House of Representatives Chamber in Juneau, Alaska

Only 40 members of the Alaska House of Representatives sit in this chamber which makes it the smallest state house body in the country despite their governing the largest land mass at over a half million square miles. That’s larger than 22 of the smallest states combined earning its slogan of “The Last Frontier.”

120 4th St, Juneau, AK 99801
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4 Alaska State Capitol Lobby Clay Art in Juneau, Alaska

This impressive artwork by Joan Bugbee Jackson is in the lobby of Alaska’s state capitol. Called “Harvest of the Sea,” the fired clay mural shows men fishing circa 1931 when the Juneau building was opened. This and a similar piece called “Harvest of the Land” were installed in 1981 after Jackson spent nine months creating them.

120 4th St, Juneau, AK 99801
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5 Brown Bear with Salmon Sculpture in Juneau, Alaska

Since brown bears first migrated to coastal Alaska about 100,000 years ago, they have enjoyed their one-sided relationship with the state’s five species of wild Pacific salmon. This statue by R.T. Wallen, called “Windfall Fisherman,” was created to celebrate Alaska’s silver anniversary in 1984. It is located in front of the Dimond Courthouse across the street from the capitol building in downtown Juneau.

123 4th St, Juneau, AK 99801
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6 Harbor Seaplane Base in Juneau, Alaska

When your city is not accessible by road, you’d better have plenty of docking space for the boats and float planes that are the primary form of transportation. Juneau’s Seaplane Base is located downtown. The harbor is naturally protected by Douglas Island across the Gastineau Channel.

2 Marine Way #175, Juneau, AK 99801
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7 City Hall Mural by Bill Ray in Juneau, Alaska

This brown bear, lizard and eagle with totem-pole style faces are part of a mural by Bill Ray on the side of Juneau’s City Hall on Marine Way. Off camera they are staring at a male member of the Tlingit clan with a raven on his back. The Tlingits are indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Their societies are descendants of either the Raven or the Eagle. This art depicts their story of creation.

155 S Seward St, Juneau, AK 99801
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8 Franklin Street and Corner Clock in Downtown Juneau, Alaska

Juneau was founded as a mining camp in 1880 and named after a gold prospector and the town’s co-founder, Joe Juneau. With a population of only 32,000, the downtown of Alaska’s capital city is very walkable. There are 42 buildings that were built from 1889 through 1939 that huddle side-by-side along a couple of narrow streets that run parallel to the Gastineau Channel.

145 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK 99801
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9 J.J. Stocker Building in Downtown Juneau, Alaska

While many of the buildings in downtown Juneau celebrate their mining-era history with artifacts and well-preserved décor, others like the J.J. Stocker Building remain silent and even misleading. Notice the façade reads 1935. That’s when the third floor was added. The original building was constructed in 1891, just about a decade after a mining camp was declared to be a town called Juneau. When the Louvre Theater burnt, it was rebuilt into this green, wooden storefront in 1906. I am not sure who the shady looking character is in the window.

241 Front St, Juneau, AK 99801
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10 Fishermen and Musicians Mural by Arnie Weimer in Juneau, Alaska

These fisherman and musicians are a detail of a wall mural that is 96 feet long and 20 feet high overlooking a parking lot on West 2nd and Franklin Streets. It was painted in 2010 by Arnie Weimer who was born and raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, and now lives in Juneau. The project was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Juneau as part of their 75th anniversary celebration.

North Franklin St & 2nd St, Juneau, AK
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11 Red Dog Saloon Façade in Juneau, Alaska

No visit to Juneau is complete without walking through the “Swingin’ Doors” of the iconic Red Dog Saloon. You will be thrilled with the décor: wagon wheel chandeliers, countless wildlife mounts, displays of old firearms including Wyatt Earp’s pistol plus written customer greetings, orange life preservers and other memorabilia on the wooden walls. So shuffle across the sawdust floor, pull up a stool, order a cold beer and enjoy the bawdy tunes from the salty piano player.

278 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK 99801
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12 Red Dog Saloon Mounted Bear in Juneau, Alaska

Chances are this giant bear mounted over the bar at the Red Dog Saloon was shot during the mining era when this tavern first opened. Back in the old days the owner, Gordie Kanouse, would solicit business by greeting arriving ships on his mule with a sign that read, “Follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.” Today, tourists from the cruise ships don’t need to be prompted to step inside for some fun with their beer and sandwich.

278 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK 99801
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13 Sunrise on Gastineau Channel near Juneau, Alaska

Approaching Juneau, Alaska, from the south along the Gastineau Channel at daybreak is magical. The rising sun paints the clouds and surrounding mountains with a warm glow. Interestingly, while this channel can now accommodate large cruise ships, the area’s main attraction is threatening the waterway’s navigability. As the nearby Mendenhall Glacier retreats, it is filling the channel with sediment. At the same time, the land beneath the water is rising in a process called isostatic or post-glacial rebound.

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