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North Pole

North Pole (population 1,646) is one of Alaska’s most unique communities.  North Pole is 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks in  the Tanana Valley, nestled  midway between Fort Wainwright Army Post and Eielson Air Force Base.   The name "North Pole" is well suited for a town in Alaska, even if its 1,750 miles from its namesake at the top of the world.  Corporate city limits land area: 4.1 square miles.

At first, North Pole was just wilderness, full of trees and wild grasses along the tributaries of the Chena River. The first people were Athabascan natives who live near the river. White trappers always found Alaska rich in resources, but around 1901 the population of the region rose significantly with emigrants from the "Outside" (the Lower 48) following the discovery of gold around Fairbanks. Settlers built log cabins without running water. They trapped beavers and fox, and they planted potatoes, onions, turnips and cabbages. In those early days, settlers traveled dirt roads by sled or by car into Fairbanks only a few times in the winter. Caribou crossed North Pole area biannually on their migrations.

By the 1940's, more settlers had arrived.  They liked having large pieces of land to plant their vegetables and live less hectically.  One of the pioneers to this area was farmer Bon Davis* who, in 1944, was homesteading here. When Con and Nellie Miller moved to Alaska Territory in 1949, they had $1.40 in cash and two hungry kids. Con became a merchant and fur buyer.  In 1952, the Miller family arrived to what is today North Pole, and became one of the founding families.

By 1951 only a small group of homesteaders were living in the area.  Just 78 homesteads were filed in the North Pole area at that time.  There wasn't even a town then, let alone a name for one.  There was a thought to call it "Davis," after the geographic name for the railroad switch built on the property.  But old timers called the area Moose Crossing.  Davis wasn't fond of that as a name, saying he might call it "Mosquito Junction."  In the end, buyers of most of the Davis homestead, the Dahl and Gaske Development Company, subdivided the land and called the acreage North Pole.  The company thought the name would attract the toy industry to manufacture articles that they could legally advertise as being "Made in North Pole." In 1952, the fledgling town became officially known as North Pole, however Dahl's and Gaske's concept for the town didn't pan out. 

Santa Claus House

 

North Pole flourished, with much effort expended to develop it as the place "Where the spirit of Christmas lives year round."  By 1952, Con Miller and his wife established a trading-post to sell Christmas gifts and ornaments.  One day, while Con was erecting a wall for the new store, a boy recognized him and said: "Hello, Santa Claus. Are you building a new house?" It was from that brief conversation that the shop was named "Santa Claus House."  The Miller family still owns the House, and it  has become one of Alaska's commercial successes. North Pole is renowned as the "home of Santa Claus," and the Santa Claus House is a year-round attraction. Santa's helpers are hired to respond to the thousands of letters from children all over the world which are mailed to North Pole at Christmastime each year.

The mayor's office keeps Christmas decorations up all year round. Street lamps on North Pole's Main Street are decorated with candy-cane motifs, and buildings are painted in Christmas colors. Roads bear names such as Santa Claus Lane, Snowman Lane, Saint Nicholas Drive and Kris Kringle Drive.

An interesting side to North Pole is that it has one other claim to fame.  Up a dirt road is the home of its radio station,  KJNP - "King Jesus North Pole."  Programs broadcast via the 430 foot-high radio mast tend to be either country gospel music or inspirational talk shows. In Fairbanks, the station is referred to as "50,000 screaming watts of Jesus."  The station is staffed with  volunteers and the studios are housed in a sod-roofed cabin. 

Moderate rainfall, dry air, and long hours of daylight during the summer characterize North Pole. Temperatures have been recorded as low as -78 degrees in midwinter and as high as 93 degrees in summer.  The longest day of sunshine is June 21st, extending for 21 hours 49 minutes; the shortest day of sun is December 21st, having only 3 hours 42 minutes.

North Pole is part of the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

* Bon Valjean Davis was issued a land patent in Fairbanks on May 10, 1949 for 120 acres.  A basic description puts the land in Section 9, Township 2S, Range 2E.  Accession Serial Nr. is 1125198.  This could be the same person who originally homesteaded the farm that would later become North Pole.  The date of patent though???

 

North Pole Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 55071, North Pole, AK 99705, phone 907-488-2242, Web: http://www.fairnet.org/npcc/index.html

City of North Pole, 125 Snowman Lane, North Pole, AK 99705-7708, phone 907-488-2281, E-mail: clerk@northpolealaska.com. Web: http://www.northpolealaska.com