|Talkeetna is situated on the confluence of three wild, glacially fed rivers:
the Susitna, Chulitna, and Talkeetna. An important location for fishing and trading by the Dena’ina, a subset of theAthabaskan people, the village’s name comes from the Athabaskan word , K’Dalkitnu or ‘food is stored river’. As early as 1896, a gold rush in the lower Susitna River area brought prospectors. Talkeetna was the site for a riverboat steamer dock that brought supplies to prospectors heading northwest to mining claims.In 1915, Talkeetna was chosen as a divisional headquarters for the Seward to Fairbanks government railroad route, approved by President Woodrow Wilson. During the railroad’s construction in 1917, Talkeetna’s population peaked near 1,000. (A number of businesses opened in 1916 and a post office was built). The town grew and in 1919, after urging by townspeople, the government sold 80 town lots, 41 of which already had permanent structures. The 1918 Influenza epidemic and 1923 completion of the railroad decreased the town’s population. However, it remained a supply center for area miners until many of the richest mines’ production declined. Talkeetna continued to survive through the years with a combination of miners, trappers, homesteaders, and railroad workers who called this place home. In 1962 Talkeetna connected to the George Parks Highway (Route 3) by the 14 mile Talkeetna Spur road, opening up the area to vehicle access and development.In 2010, the census recorded Talkeetna’s population to be 876 people. However, the overall population of the area surrounding Talkeetna is much more than that.Today, THS is ever-active with running the museum, preserving and maintaining its historic buildings, fundraising endeavors, and educating local residents and visitors alike as to the significance and value of Talkeetna’s 1993 placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Talkeetna Roadhouse: The building that is now the Roadhouse was originally built by Frank and Ed Lee as their home in 1915-17. At the time, it was the largest house in Talkeetna. Frank ran a freighting business and his horses were housed in the barn behind his home. Ed married Belle Grindrod in 1918 and they moved closer to the riverfront. Belle opened up a Roadhouse not far from DeVaults Roadhouse near the river. Ed died in 1928. Belle married ‘Mac’ McDonald in 1932 and continued her own business. Frank finally sold his house in 1944. The new owners, the Darch family, turned into into a Roadhouse. There were additions over the years. The building has stayed a roadhouse since that time, changing ownership a few times. Before 1944, Talkeetna had had several roadhouses: Belle Lee ran a roadhouse, the DeVault family had a roadhouse and others in the early years had tried to make a success of running bunkhouses and roadhouses. Belle, DeVaults and the Birch Roadhouse finally all closed and Talkeetna Roadhouse became THE one Roadhouse in Talkeetna. The Roadhouse became popular with mountain climbers starting in the early 60s. It was also used as a boarding house for long term renters until the mid 70s.
The Fairview Inn: The original name when it was built in 1923, was the Fairview Hotel. German born Ben (Bruno) Nauman built the hotel. He sold it in 1939 to the Campbell family. It was sold again a year later to Horace W. Nagley. There have been numerous owners over the years. The bar/inn is a museum in and of itself and if the walls could talk, there would be hundreds of stories to tell! The business is currently owned by Phillip Wiedner. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It continues to be a center of activity in Talkeetna. Zoning regulations state no building in downtown can be taller than the Fairview.
Nagley’s Store: Horace Nagley was a businessman before his time. He built and opened a store on the shores of the Susitna River at a place called Susitna Station in 1908. Gold was discovered just to the north and west in 1905. A few years later, he had the foresight to open a branch store north on the Yentna River in McDougall. In 1916, when it was announced that Talkeetna was to be the next district area for railroad construction, Nagley jumped at the chance to open a third branch store there that year. According to news reports in 1916, it was an immediate success. The other 2 stores closed around 1920-22, and there is evidence that Nagley might have actually built a second store in Talkeetna around 1920. When Horace was ready to retire and realized his son did not want to take over the business, they sold it in 1947. Barrett and Kennedy were the new owners and re-named the store B&K Trading Post. Almost immediately, they moved the store up Main Street to its current day location. It took 3 days to sled the store along Main Street…it stayed open the entire time. The business sold several times. It wasn’t until 1997 when yet another owner took over that the named changed back to Nagley’s. New Years Day 1997, disaster struck and fire damaged the second story and roof. Firefighters fought the blaze in 30 below temperatures. The townspeople helped repair the damage. It was then that a restaurant, the West Rib Pub, was also added. The business has likely had too many changes to ever be listed on the National Register of Historic Places (as well as being moved), but it is a contributing building to the historic district — a 3 block by 2 block area in downtown.
Belle’s Historic Site The property that Belle Lee MacDonald owned is now owned by the Talkeetna Historical Society and is on the historic walking tour of Talkeetna. Her barn, roadhouse and other buildings no longer exist, but if one walks along the trail, the remains of the old barn are still around. Belle was the first known business WOMAN in Talkeetna and she lived here until 1960. She may be one of the most important individuals of Talkeetna for that time period. She moved to the Sitka Pioneer Home after living over 40 years in Talkeetna. She died at the age of 97.
To walk the historic district and learn more about all the historic buildings of town, download our Talkeetna Historic Walking Tour app on iTunes or Android for free. Then download the app to read about all! To have someone guide you around town, call us 907-733-2487 (generally the charge is $10/pp depending on group size)