Prior to the gold rush, most of Alaska was not mapped. The oceans had been charted and shorelines outlined by English, Spanish, and Russian explorers, but it wasn’t until gold was discovered that there was demand for extensive surveying and mapping of inland Alaska. In the 1880s and 1890s, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Geological Survey sponsored mapping expeditions in our area. From that point forward, maps were produced in increasing detail, each newer edition showing the rapid growth of trails, roads, railroads, and communities.
Museum collections contain maps, navigational charts, and building plans. The maps and charts are of Prince William Sound and the Copper River Valley and most pre-date World War II. Collection highlights include an 1898 map from the Alaska Military Expedition, a 1911 map of the Valdez Gold Region showing land and mineral claims, and U.S. Army surveyor Addison Powell’s 1900 map showing the upper Copper River District.
Community development drawings include a number of sectionals and plats of the Old Town and the 1942 water works schematics. One rare piece shows pioneer George Hazelet’s 1907 proposed town site. Hazelet proposed that Valdez be laid out and developed four miles west of Old Town. His proposal failed to gain general support and the town grew up on the out wash plane of the Valdez Glacier Stream. In a twist of fate, Valdez was moved to Hazelet’s proposed site after the 1964 Earthquake proved that the Old Town site was unstable.
Building plans include the 1962 post office, the remains of which serve as a memorial to the victims of the earthquake and Owen Meals’ New Town home – a beautiful, modern home with huge picture windows overlooking the Port of Valdez that symbolized the massive changes the town underwent in the late 1960s.