In the spring of 1968, the first major oil discovery was made in Prudhoe Bay. A year later, announcements were made that an 800-mile pipeline would be built to Valdez. Over the next four years, permits were issued, legal and environmental issues worked out, and land claims settled. Work began on building the pipeline in 1974. The community of Valdez experienced a huge increase in activity during the construction years.
In 1975, the area that known as Black Gold Subdivision in Valdez was developed by Alyeska and Fluor Companies as staff housing for employees. Modular homes - which were relatively recent additions to the U.S. housing market - were erected on un-landscaped lots. These were built to be temporary housing during the construction of the pipeline for management employees and their families. Most single blue-collar employees lived in bunkhouses near the airport.
Trailer parks sprang up in Valdez during 1974 and 1975 - the peak years of pipeline construction. The population of Valdez grew from about 1,300 in 1974 to 6,500 in 1975. Housing was in incredibly short supply. Several trailer parks had existed prior to construction, but with the immigration of workers, the demand for housing far exceeded the supply. Trailers provided an alternative to living in hotels and campers. During 1975, 41% of the Valdez population lived in trailer homes.
What was the cost of this housing? In 1975 houses were rented for $500 to $1500 per month. Trailer space cost $75-$140/month. The cost of living in Valdez was keeping pace with the high construction wages.
In the late 1970's, Fluor Company removed some of the original modular homes from the Black-Gold area. It upgraded the remaining buildings, streets, and water and sewer systems and began selling the houses to residents of Valdez. Today, many of the houses - and Black-Gold Subdivision itself-- are reminders of Valdez's pipeline construction boom years.
The information for this fact sheet was compiled by the Valdez Museum and is based on materials from the Valdez Museum's historical collections.