Ruth & I had been to Juneau before, but there were several new attractions for us to see including the tram to the top of Mount Roberts. Mendenhall Glacier was not one of them. We had been to this eerie attraction on a previous visit and felt no need to repeat what is one if the most visited attractions in the state of Alaska. Since being on this still stunning but shrinking glacial mass that keeps Juneau from having a road to another spot in this “Lush land of contradictions”, I have visited John Muir’s home in California’s bay area near San Francisco. I was a bit surprised to learn that Muir had visited Mendenhall when he was in Alaska.
Ruth has been to Juneau several times, but the last time she was here I was not with her when she visited the state capitol. We were there this time on a Sunday and this time the capitol was closed so I did not get to experience it. This was OK because I now had time to visit the Juneau-Douglas City Museum across the street from it. After admiring the flowers, the sculpture across the street, and the totem pole in front of it that has become its main symbol, I found this a worthy stop.
Douglas is where Juneau began. At one time it was the largest city in this state. It’s still a vivid community on an island across a bridge from downtown.
The city museum began with a very fine and dramatic film about Juneau. It contained a lot about Juneau’s gold strike that I knew nothing about. I quickly learned that $158 million dollars was earned by 3 mines here and that Joe, who gave his surname to this city and is buried here, ran one of them. This gold strike preceded the more familiar Klondike Gold Rush, and I learned that Joe Juneau was an important player in this local gold discovery before rushing to the Klondike and dying in Dawson. The problem was that it was not high quality gold, and the mines that produced it were not long lasting businesses. They did last for 60 years, however; and The Treadwell was one of them until it closed in 1922. If the film and this museum have strengths besides the seasonal flowers outside, it’ s its focus on this city’s gold years.
There is also a lot about World War II and Alaska’s statehood difficulties here. Juneau was the scene of a major prisoner of war camp during the world war and has been its capital since it became a state in 1959. Other exhibits included local art, fishing in the area, Tlingit canoes, shipwrecks, and the commercial history of Juneau. We went from here back downtown and had a better-than-average coffee and lunch at Heritage roasters.