--> Return Home
Home Page

Historic Properties

National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places

Tour of National Register Historic Places in Seward

National Register Historic Places in Seward

  • Jesse Lee Home
  • Ballaine House
  • Lowell Creek Diversion Tunnel
  • St. Peter's Church
  • Seward Depot
  • US Cable Office
  • Swetman House
  • Van Gilder Hotel
  • Brown and Hawkins Store

    307 Adams Street

    E.L. Van Gilder was a businessman from Kellogg, Idaho, who wanted to invest in the last frontier. He decided to build a two-story modern office building with a meeting hall for organizations. Van Gilders were active in Seward, his daughter Florence was a member of the Athenaeum Literary Society and won a high school debate promoting “resolved, that Examinations should be abolished” in January of 1916.

    Almost $200,000 worth of building activity was underway in Seward in May of 1916 including excavation for the basement of the Van Gilder. The building was completed by late October.

    During construction Van Gilder was convinced to add a third story –the extra costs of the quality construction and a slower-than-expected economy forced him to sell the property to Charles Brown of Brown & Hawkins just months after completion.

    In September of 1917 Lowell Creek flooded the basement of the Van Gilder building, the location of the Gateway Newspaper. The Gateway was the second Alaskan newspaper to join the Associated Press and the only even-column, four-page newspaper published in Alaska. On its tenth anniversary in September 1915, the Gateway was noted as Alaska’s second largest newspaper.

    The Gateway was started by Charles E, Herron and sold to Bernard Stone in May 1915. In January 1917, Frank L. Ballaine and Harry Hoben purchased Stone’s interest and continued publication with E.O. Sawyer, Jr. as editor and R.G. Chambers as business manager.

    The Van Gilder building was converted into apartments in early 1921, with Joe Badger as manager, By September 1921, Badger owned the building and had it extensively altered to serve as a hotel, with a large lobby and forty-three rooms.

    Originally from Chelsco, Massachusetts, Joe Badger, was part of the Nome gold rush in 1900, where he operated both commercial and mining enterprises. Badger mined in the Hope-Sunrise area around 1914. He then came to Seward and formed a partnership with Harry Kawabe in a dry-cleaning business.

    Badger owned and operated the Van Gilder until his death in 1938. Some suggest Badger had a gruff manner, others report he was a man of generous spirit and well liked in the community. During his ownership the Van Gilder was considered by many to be the finest hotel in Seward, catering to the wealthy passers-through, as well as visiting dignitaries, travelers, and explorers.

    Noteworthy guests came as part of many exciting adventures. In 1924, US Army Air Force General William Mitchell emphasized the strategic importance of Alaska in a future war and predicted that the next war would be fought in the air. To illustrate his determinations, it was decided that the Army Air Force would make the world’s first circumnavigation by air.

    The Great Circle Route began in Washington, DC stopping at Seattle, Canada, Southeast Alaska, Seward, Aleutian Islands, Japan, China, India, Turkey, Iceland, Greenland, and Labrador before returning to Washington DC.

    The four Army flyers arrived at Seward on April 13th, the 600 mile flight from Sitka took nearly seven hours and a half hours through the worst weather they had encountered to date –snow squalls, hail rain, and powerful winds. The Douglas World Cruisers – the Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and Boston – were the first airplanes ever seen by most of the 1,000 people who welcomed them on the beaches of Resurrection Bay.

    Pilots and mechanics for the four aircraft who stayed at the Van Gilder Hotel included Major Frederick L. Martin with his mechanic Sgt. Alva L. Harvey, Lt. Erik Nelson with Lt. John Harding, L. Lowell H. Smith with Lt. Leslie P. Arnold, and Lt. Leigh Wade with Sgt. Henry H. Ogden.

    In 1950, Burt Lewis sold the property to Emma Renwald who renamed it Renwald. On September 10, 1964 the property changed hands again from Bill and Frances O’Brian to Norman and Jean Rinehart. At that time the Van Gilder returned to its original name and hotel was rehabilitated as a historic building with a dining room added.

    The Van Gilder Hotel has had many different owners and uses including serving as the women’s dormitory from 1972-1987, and, if rumor is true, a brief period when it was run as a brothel.