In the early 1900’s, a quirky woman from the Yukon Territory required that her suitor provide her a “dream home” if he had hopes of relocating her to Fairbanks, Alaska. That was all the motivation Author Williams needed to order a catalog kit home for his love, Lucille. He ordered it from the west coast and a sternwheeler delivered it to Fairbanks in 1916. The home’s earliest distinctions include the first oak floors and stone masonry fireplace in the city. Since then, the home endured nearly 20 sets of owners and is known as the “Alaska Heritage House.”
Vintage Grandfather Clock
The wife and I visited the home as part of a “First Friday” event for our friend Kristen Summerlin of “Tin Cup Designs.” Una Wirkebau acted as the perfect hostess and happens to also be one of the latest part-owners of the home. In addition, she manages the home as a full-on B&B. After looking around for a bit, I thought of asking to do a profile spot for this blog. Una was happy to accommodate and suggested that I get in contact with a lady who wrote a book about the house, Patricia Schmidt. After a week of emails between us all, Una said she’d like to host a dinner for all of us at the end of April.
Clock Upper Close Up
I brought most of my photo gear and tried to remember most of the conversations concerning the history of the place. I figured it was ultimately best left up to Patricia’s publication. For this purpose, I would do better to just focus on the interesting wood works throughout the home. The first thing I noticed and spent a while studying was the grandfather clock in the main room. I am not an expert so it’s hard for me to date the thing properly, but it has interesting tell-tale indications. Either the clock underwent minor repairs or the time piece received a minor upgrade.
The main room shows signs of it’s nearly hundred year old history. Based on an 90-year old photo, the fireplace hearth widened eventually to include bookshelves. Whoever upgraded the wall’s centerpiece did a top-notch job.
Fully Intact Coal Furnace
As everyone continued to enjoy the evening, I went into the basement. I found the original coal furnace intact with all the zone plumbing still in place. My father was an industrial engineer in Detroit and had a lot of experience with giant coal burning boiler systems. Even on this smaller scale, it brought back memories.
Didn’t I see these on eBay?
All throughout the basement, many vintage items, mostly tools, adorned the walls. Not the least of which is a a pair of well used wooden mortising planes.
‘Duke, first name, Marma (really)
The house pet was closer to a steed of sorts. Marmaduke is a very friendly animal though, always wanting to play. He loves people, which is good since dozens come and go each day.
This is just a sample of all that the house has to offer. It’s likely I will have to go back multiple times to profile the remainder. It’s nice to know that people have a sense of heritage. This house recently suffered a great amount of internal damage when a previous owner gave piano lessons in the home. At the time, they had three baby grands and ran several humidifiers full time in order to keep them in tune, since Fairbanks often experiences very low humidity (that along with zero winds makes 50-below zero temperatures not too unbearable). After a couple of decades, the humidifiers ruined much of the interior with mold problems. Following that ownership mess, Jacqueline Haydon took on a massive restoration project after buying the home. The place must have been close to total ruin, but thankfully she brought it back to life. Though her efforts, the Alaska Heritage House will be around for many more generations to enjoy.
In the meantime, we plan on many more visits to this wonderful place; a n incredibly comfortable house often filled with happy and relaxing folks.
Thanks for reading. (original)
Your Arctic Woodworking Friend,
-- Troy Bouffard || Master Sergeant, US Army (Retired) || http://www.birchhillwoodcrafts.com