VAN GILDER HOTEL
307 Adams Street
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
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,
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
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