The small city of Seward is nestled at the foot of Mount Marathon along the scenic shoreline of Resurrection Bay, a restless, fickle body of water teeming with abundant species of fish and frolicking marine mammals. In 1792 the bay was sighted and named on Resurrection Day, Easter Sunday, by Alexander Baranof, the most famous of Alaska’s early Russian explorer-governors. Against a backdrop of peaks and passes sculpted by Ice Age glaciers, Seward’s ice-free harbor has long served as a natural gateway to the vast scenic and resource riches of Alaska’s huge interior.
The city of Seward was named for President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, the man who engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The city was officially founded in 1903 on a long-abandoned Native village site, but the town had already been a Gold Rush encampment for at least a decade. Optimistic prospectors heard tales of a trail that led from Seward to riches-to-be, and on to Cook Inlet. That dogsled trail would indeed lead to the rich strikes at Hope and Sunrise and later to the bonanza at Iditarod, a place name commemorated in today’s Iditarod Sled Dog Race, and on to Nome.
Then in 1903, a party of railroad men arrived and laid out the present city in a traditional grid of city blocks and wide streets that would be familiar to anyone from similar small railroad towns across America. In the boasting spirit of frontier towns, one of Seward’s streets was named Millionaires Row for the gold barons, another was called Home Brew Alley for obvious reasons. The new railroad that was built to reach Cook Inlet (the city of Anchorage) was called the Alaska Central Railway. It would later become the Anchorage to Seward route of today’s Alaska Railroad.
Seward’s history is well documented in a variety of websites and can be seen close up and personally at the excellent, homey Resurrection Bay Historical Society Museum located on 3rd Avenue.
For a unique perspective on Seward’s history, visit a website created by local first and second graders! Go to Seward, Alaska: Through Young Eyes.