Valdez Museum Celebrates 50 year Anniversary of New Valdez

Valdez Museum Celebrates 50 year Anniversary of New Valdez

Valdez, Alaska, September 12, 2017 – On March 27, 1964, Alaska experienced the largest-ever recorded earthquake in North America. Known as the Good Friday Earthquake, this event caused an underwater landslide that washed away the waterfront area of Valdez and resulted in the loss of 32 lives. As a result of the earthquake, the Valdez town site was deemed unsafe for habitation, causing the entire town to be relocated to its present, safer location approximately four miles away, a process completed over the next three years.  On October 1, 1967, all services to the “Old Town” were severed and the building of the new town site complete. About sixty-eight residents and businesses relocated to the new site.

After the disaster Valdez residents realized that to assure the recovery program’s success the city had to play a strong part in the formulation of policy. The success in the relocation efforts came from strong and forward thinking leadership, including H. Bruce Woodford (Mayor), Max H. Wells (Mayor), George H. Gilson (Mayor), Nels Kjelstad, James F. Bedingfield, Don. J. Williams, William L. McIlroy, Robert Oligney, William Pettit, Don Teeters, D’Burl Teeters, Ralph Migliaccio, David Vietti, Walter Day, Helen Long, William Stouder, Raymond Huddleston, Marvin Beals, Jack Devault, Frank J. Minish, Harvey F. Stelling, Walter Farmer, Ed Walker, James Brayton, Herman Londagin, L.H. Parker, Leora L. Rutledge, Orville G. Ness, and John “Slim” Giesler.

In recognition of this extraordinary undertaking, in October the Valdez Museum’s annual Roadhouse Dinner and Auction, held on October 14, 2017 at the Valdez Civic Center, will honor the City Councils from 1964 – 1967. On behalf of the Councils during this time, Mayor Ruth Knight will be accepting the honor. This is a wonderful community event that brings the community together to pay recognition to the past, showcases how Valdez continues to prosper today, while raising funds for the Valdez Museum’s projects and programs.  Tickets are available now, available at the Museum or online at

During the month of November, 2017 the Valdez Museum will host a series of FREE weekly Lunch and Learn programs focusing on the Paul Finfer Collection. Attendees may peruse a selection of images and documents from Finfer’s personal archive that include small concept drawings of the new town site scribbled in pencil; letters to City planners from Owen Meals and John Kelsey; beautifully rendered architectural drawings; citizen’s questionnaires and documents that reflect the role of local, state and federal agencies in building the new town site.

Finfer writes about his design for Valdez, the “key element is proximity of home to school to work to shopping, making the pedestrian paramount.”

Altogether, the collection is a fascinating read that reveals the challenges faced after the devastating quake to build a new home for Valdez residents and the collective problem solving skills and dialogue that went into its design, construction and ultimate evolution over the past fifty years.

For more information about these events, please contact the Valdez Museum at 907-835-2764 or

About the Valdez Museum:

The Valdez Museum & Historical Archive is an active place. We bring the stories of our community’s history alive through our programs and activities. Please come visit us at our two locations: The Valdez Museum in the heart of downtown at 217 Egan Drive and the Remembering Old Valdez Exhibit on the waterfront at 436 S. Hazelet Avenue.

Contact: Patricia Relay – Tel: 907 835 2764 Email: