5. Interpretive Panel at McKinley St and Alaska Ave
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5. Interpretive Panel: “This was Home.” Alaska Avenue and McKinley Street
McKinley Street encompasses much of the once six block square business district in Old Town. It runs northwest and southeast, previously lined with retail shops, a bank, hotels, grocery stores and a car dealership. It was the summer parade route for the annual Gold Rush Days celebration begun in 1962, commemorating the 1898ers who landed on Valdez’ shores in search of gold, fame and fortune.
Alaska Avenue connected the waterfront and ships arriving from Seattle at its main dock to the Richardson Highway. It ran northeast and southwest on its way out of town and in-between hotels, restaurants, bars, the original post office and a hardware store.
Residents welcomed the arrival of mail and groceries via ships such as the Chena which docked on Alaska Avenue. Trucks filled from steamers’ caches carried freight to Fairbanks along this key thoroughfare.
Alaska Avenue, a state road, was paved while McKinley Street was not. Gravel thoroughfares in Old Town proved dry and dusty in warm weather and muddy in spring during annual run off and flooding from Valdez Glacier streams. Boardwalks skirted the roadways and ensured that pedestrians remain relatively high and dry.
Valdez’s story is one of boom and bust. What distinguishes the town from other pioneer settlements, is its strategic location making it the gateway to the Interior.