I was invited to show recent photographic work, along with three others to the monthly lecture audience of the Alaska Photographic Center. I showed them my Mt. View house photos. I’ve included all the photos in this post, and the captions below are approximately what I said about them as they were projected on the screen at the Anchorage Museum.
It was great to be on the program with the other three. I’ve known Oscar for three or four years, seen him at Critical Mass bike rides… and a couple years ago he founded and ran a youth outreach project in the neighborhood, Mt. View Photo Voice. This time he showed some highlights from a bicycle trip he made from Bellingham, WA to Colombia and back.
Charles Tice is an energetic and freewheeling young man who recently got that great moose shot on the flyer above. Hearing how he did it was entertaining! He has a future in photography, and knows it. He is intentionally not letting himself get distracted with a day job, spending most of his time in pursuit of strong imagery.
Jackson is taking a deliberate, careful approach to portraiture and he showed a couple great ones, including a homeless man who sits at the entrance to the Homer Safeway store and does windshield chip repair to keep himself lubricated.
[There’s 79 photos here… I breezed through them all in 25 minutes or so.]
I’ve lived in Mt. View for 11 years and have been documenting it that whole time. I’ve been specifically concerned about the disappearance of housing stock from the 1940-65 era. The developed history of Mt. View can be chunked into four periods. 1920-40 it consisted of three adjacent 20-acre homestead parcels. Each of the three original homesteaders subdivided their homesteads about 1940 and started selling lots. Sales were slow at first, but picked up, post World War II. A lot of houses were constructed from 1947 to 1952 to address a city wide post-war housing shortage. From 1940 until 1965 the neighborhood was mostly single family dwellings, with a lot of trees and space between the houses. Around 1965, the neighborhood’s zoning was changed, allowing apartment buildings to be built, coinciding with construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Mt. View became the most densely populated part of Anchorage and became a transient area and developed crime and social problems, which continued through the 1970s and 80s. In 1990 or so, the neighborhood entered its fourth and present phase, contemplating remaking its infrastructure, conditions and role in the city at large.
This photo was sent to me by a woman in California I exchanged emails with in 2006. The photo is of her house on Klevin St. south of Mt. View Dr. She and her husband lived there for about a year. The photo was taken in 1963. The same location today, as near as I can tell is where the Glenn Highway, built 1965, cuts through. The Glenn Highway bypassed Mt. View. Before it was built, what is now Mt. View Dr. was part of the main road out of town, called the Palmer Highway.
When the Glenn Highway was built in 1965, this part of Mt. View Dr. was bypassed. A vibrant commercial street in the 1950s and early 1960s, today it’s still frozen in time, looking neglected and unimportant.
This is an impromptu memorial to a 14 yr old who was killed by a random stray bullet in a drive-by shooting in 2004. I’m not dwelling on this aspect, just including this to show that Mt. View’s reputation for violence and a lack of safety continue.
The landscape surrounding and within Mt. View is a major factor in its desirability and quality of daily life. There is a very old log house behind the fence, its lot full of tall, mature trees, shown here in Fall.
A wilderness trail through Davis Park, at the northeast corner of Mt. View. This photo is from the You’d Never Believe You’re In Mt. View Department.
Community gardens are located at the northern edge of the neighborhood. I have approached them many times, but they are difficult to capture effectively in photos. I am going to keep trying.
There’s a neat homemade aspect to these gardens — fences made of found materials, all kinds of different plants… they are also used as an immersion program for new immigrants, who grow vegetables for sale and home use.
This is an alley, in the north middle part, near Mt. View Elementary School. It is lesser-travelled, and has the feeling of Mt. View in an earlier time. Overgrown with wild rose, grass and various other native vegetation. From June 2008.
Looking the opposite direction, from further down the same alley, later that summer.
An effective use of trees. This line of aspens, along the fence between lots, provides some shade and visual interest for the people in the small blue house and their neighbors on the block.
I found it amusing, the way landscaping was deployed by the owners of this building. There are no trees in the front yard — instead they are clustered along the sides of the building, very close. That’s different!
Crabapple tree blossoms in early summer.
A dense cluster of trees [these are Mountain Ash, aren’t they? I can’t remember right now], with some ferns, groundcover, what looks like chickweed and a broken down chain link fence provide a casual green street presence.
Sunset light illuminates a huge birch. You can see a tiny house on the left and the Chugach Mountains beyond.
Mayday trees, in full bloom in June, and a small cottage.
There’s a house in there amongst the successful, mature landscape; making a nice atmosphere and degree of privacy.
All of the trees in the photo are on one lot, with one lot in the foreground and two behind being mostly or completely bare. These trees are a shared amenity.
This photo shows how the pattern works on the scale of most of a block — smaller houses interspersed with mature trees and other types of landscaping. It is not an unpleasant scene, eh?
Looking north on Flower St. All of the trees seen in the photo are on properties with older homes. You can see that even the loss of a third, or half of them would drastically alter the appearance and character. I met with a lot of focus groups of neighborhood activists, looking into planning and redevelopment issues — and they found that one aspect almost all residents said they appreciated was the trees! So why don’t we figure out how to not lose them?
Here we see the border between commercial lots fronting Mt. View Dr. on the right and residential property to the left, separated by a cross alley. What little landscape plantings remain in this area are because there are some older small homes remaining. The two spruce trees sit on a lot occupied by a yellow house, barely visible in the photo.
Here is a site owned by Cook Inlet Housing Authority where they plan to develop a multifamily housing project. It’s relatively barren, but also gives an idea of how the area looked at times in the past.
A couple examples of pipeline era apartments. There were some larger buildings built then, but mostly fourplexes and some six-plexes. These buildings are good structurally, but the components — siding, windows and doors, appliances, finishes, mechanical and electrical systems are near the end of their useful life. Mt. View and Fairview were plagued with these buildings in the early ’70s, the peak of their construction being around 1974. Almost all of the lots in Mt. View are the same size, 50 ft wide by 125 ft deep. The small houses might cover only 10 percent of the lot area, leaving lots of room for yards, outbuildings and trees and shrubs. These buildings, you can see that most of the lot is paved, the pavement continuing right up to the street curb. There is maybe a 10 ft wide strip of grass on the back of each building, not very useable.
The typical approach used in the recent redevelopment efforts is to strip the entire property of all buildings, underground utilities and all trees and other plants.
The next stage of the project, with a foundation for a new duplex installed. The same clearing and foundation work is proceeding on the block in the background, and a view corridor has been opened up that’s a lot different than a few months ago. Where there used to be groves of spruce, there are now just isolated trees or small clusters.
This is by far the best single family home built by Cook Inlet Housing Authority. It is the result of a design competition, won by architects Mayer Sattler-Smith. It doesn’t look like the houses from the ’40s and ’50s but it is close in spirit — uniquely Mt. View, and a one of a kind design not repeated.
Unfortunately, to build the Ideal Home, the house pictured here was torn down. This house had a strange long shed dormer in the front with a stained glass window, an enclosed porch and some other unusual features. It may have originally been a log house, as many log homes in Anchorage were covered with stucco in the ’50s.
This is a typical new house that has been built the last couple years. It is a nice design, in many ways. But the developer’s m.o. seems to be: if you like it here, you will like it just as well on 14 or 16 other sites. Sometimes another one sits just four or five lots down from the first one.
One of the same new houses, next to a 1940s or ’50s house that is ready for teardown. An interesting juxtaposition of old and new.
This and the next two photos are of the same piece of property. This 1940s cabin sat on a corner lot at Klevin St. and Peterkin Ave. until 2004.
And this is the house built to replace it. Contrary to usual practice, the spruce tree on the right was saved. I guess they decided it wasn’t in the way.
This is the same house four or five years later. Seeing this made me feel better, like some of these new houses will fit into the neighborhood. It looks less generic now, with personal items displayed by the homeowner — and because the spruce tree is still there.
Another log house. I’m going to show a few log houses. An historic survey of Mt. View was commissioned by the Municipality of Anchorage in 2004 — and noted the presence of around 100 log buildings existing. I am guessing that has dwindled to around 20 or so today. This one, on Bragaw St. is in good shape and well-maintained. It has a basement, and a large addition and detached garage behind. A lot of room inside.
A small late 1940s cabin on a corner lot at Lane and Thompson. Features shutters with cutouts shaped like trees, and a nice fence.
This very small tidy log home was torn down just this Fall. It sat very close to the road [closer than would be allowed today]. The owners lived there many decades and they always displayed a lovely flower garden in the front, including potted plants displayed on shelves attached to the wall of the house. The house sat on two lots and had a shed built out of old doors and a charming ramshackle greenhouse.
Log house on Bunn St. [I think]. Unusual in that it’s two stories. Have some older pictures of it under previous ownership, before the tree was limbed up and some of the other landscape features cut down. The house seems to be hanging in there.
1940s cabin on a corner lot at Bragaw and Thompson Ave. Also torn town this Fall. General front view.
Looking at the entryway.
This house was kind of a wreck, but I loved the feeling of it — a weird little compound, out of whack with marginal buildings, strangely formed connections… and like a lot of the older homes, it’s not sitting square with the street and property lines. Torn down in 2005.
Log house on Klevin St. with some of its logs painted blue.
And the front of the same building. The strategy/procedure used for teardowns has been interesting. First all of the plants are stripped off the lot, then the utility lines are cut off and meters removed, the windows covered with plywood and it’s just left sitting there for months on end. I wish they would tear them down quickly.
Cabin further up Klevin St. sitting amongst tall spruce. Some of the older homes lack defining site elements — here there’s no driveway, porch or really anything except patchy grass and earth.
Thompson Ave. Not completely sure, but I think this one [photographed last winter] is now also gone. I liked how it has log sections covering the door.
I think this may be a conversion of an older single family home. It may have been lifted up and a basement built under, and converted to a triplex or fourplex? There are good and bad aspects here. The good news is there’s fresh paint on the outside and it looks pretty together. But the landlords, it appears have simplified maintenance by denuding the cottonwood and cutting off the aspen trees three feet above the ground.
Shotgun-style dwellings [there are two apartments in each building] with a small courtyard with huge spruce trees between. Appears to have been a separate property, later incorporated into the compound next door [to the right, not shown], an apartment building with a play yard that operated as a day care center in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Seen in the background is a pipeline-era six-plex, casting a shadow over the older buildings.
There were a few other multifamily buildings in the original developed era. These 1950s row houses sat on a large parcel on bliss st. the building was hard against the alley, with a large yard area in front that was not dominated by parking. There was lots of room for outdoor living. This place always looked to be harmonious. whenever i went by there in summer, there would be people sitting outside, barbecuing, lounging. Seemed to be long-term tenants mostly. Torn down in 2009.
This one puzzled me. It is the size of a shed, about 8×12 ft., but it almost looks like it was set up for people to live there, and was [incredibly!] a duplex. There are two other buildings, a main house and a detached garage on the same lot.
There are a few houses where there’s a fair amount of personal expression, like this backyard compound.
This house was a special sore point. It should never have been torn down. It was the best house from the original neighborhood, and one of the best from the 1940s in the city. It was all original, on a concrete basement with a masonry fireplace. It needed paint but in most ways was sound — the roof was fairly new. This was a two owner home. The 82 yr old owner died in 2003, having out-survived her husband by eight or ten years. The couple bought the home in 1951 from the original owner. Built in 1945. Sat on three lots, fully landscaped. She was a gardener and there were at one time 11 subspecies of lilacs in addition to many other native and other plantings.
Very small house on Schodde St., in good shape when torn down in ’06.
An even smaller one, though it doesn’t appear so in this odd view from behind a tall fence, in the alley.
I was always impressed by how well-kept this little place was. the lawn was always trimmed, the small trailer tucked neatly in the corner. Sat on two lots, occupied for decades by the owner. She passed away and the house isn’t there anymore.
This place is always likewise neat and orderly, and also has some kooky added roof forms.
Small house on Hoyt St., nearing its end.
Not a great photo of it, another very small house, this one at the corner of Flower St. and Parsons Ave.
Flower St. further south, resided in the ’60s/’70s but still displaying its original charm. Torn down 2010.
Another quite small, plain little place. I heard that the owner lived next door and used to rent this house, but after a few tenants who had problems, he decided to just let it sit empty, but continue maintenance and upkeep.
Small, low houses. Still there?
Hoyt St. house, slightly larger than some, still pretty tiny. about 600 sq. ft.
Flower St. Cute, feel-good scenario.
Shows how plenty of space is left on the lot, with small house in the front.
Irwin St., 1947. Still exists.
Typical arrangement for many of the early houses… small footprint, entry way may have been original, or perhaps added later to give a little more floor area, and a detached garage or shed.
Similar composition and features in a bit larger house.
The house is kind of a mess [easily fixed], a Quonset hut is seen beyond. Classic Mt. View street. Intersection of two alleys.
Irwin st. Fun design, with twin dormers a bit overscaled for the house.
Hoyt St. House has a serious ice glaciering roof. Technical problems, but the roof form is pleasing. Built 1950.
Another one in its final days.
Park St. three-lot mini-estate with small house right in the middle. And carport and various sheds. Planters made from tires, cut to resemble flowers, sitting on stumps; and other pleasing accents.
House had received an extension at rear and was converted into a triplex, though it still read as a single family home from the curb.
This doesn’t look like much, but it was the homestead house of Norman Lange, on Parsons Ave. One of the three homesteaders responsible for starting Mt. View.
And that is all I have! Thanks!