The Wickersham House

First Historical Monument of the State of Alaska
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Located at Alaskaland Pioneer Park

A SMALL MUSEUM
DEVOTED TO THE LIFE AND TIMES OF
JUDGE WICKERSHAM AND
THE AUTHENTIC RECREATION OF THE
EARLY DAYS IN FAIRBANKS

Authentic furnishings of the first decade of this century. photographic displays, and other exhibits, evoke the spirit of this house which Judge James Wickersham built himself, and of the early days of Fairbanks in which he played a unique role.

This small house museum recreates the house as it might have been when Wickersham lived there, as a reflection of the man in relation to his times, as a tool for a better understanding of the Judge's influence on a growing town, and to shed light on how the spirit of the new town and its inhabitants became a part of this unique man.

The Wickersham House Is A Project Of
The Tanana-Yukon Historical Society
Wickersham House

The house was donated by Standard Oil of California and moved to Alaskaland by the Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo #4. Funds for the project have come from a H.U.D. Block Grant, a 1979 Bicentennial Grant, the City of Fairbanks and the State of Alaska. Credit should be given to the Fairbanks Bar Association, the Pioneers of Alaska, Ruth Allman, and the many individuals who have, through their interest in Alaska's past and their desire to preserve something of old Fairbanks, helped to make this museum possible.


The Wickersham House we see today is a historical remnant of the original house. Wickersham bought the lot at the northeast corner of First and Noble Streets for $175 on April 15, 1904. There was, as yet, no wagon in the Tanana Valley, he carried the newly cut lumber on his back from the sawmill to his lot, a few blocks away.

Wickersham and Debbie

The new house consisted of just two rooms. The "sitting room" was 14 x 16 feet with a gable roof. Attached was a shed-roofed kitchen, 12 x 14 feet. To the east of the kitchen was a covered porch and wood shed which extended back to the northeast corner of the lot, leading to the "closet." This first part of the house was completed by the middle of June. The walls were then papered and the floors covered with Japanese matting. Until they left Fairbanks at the end of Augest, the Judge and Debbie slept in a tent pitched at the front door of the house, an arrangement thought necessary for Debbie's health.

Judge Wickersham returned to Fairbanks in the middle of March, 1905, and it was at this time that the house was more substantially finished. Wickersham brought a new cylinder phonograph (carefully packed in a large crate) back to Fairbanks, over the trail by dogsled from Valdez. He put in a "nice, new carpet," bought a sideboard, and had electric lights installed. Debbie arrived in the beginning of June and that summer the Wickershams settled into their house, and the Judge planted flower and vegetable gardens.

At the beginning of September, Wickersham again rented the house and left for Seattle and Tacoma. At the end of the year, he went to Washington for the long battle for reconfirmation in front of the Senate committees, and he was not to return to Fairbanks until July 23, 1906. (It took him nearly a month to travel from Washington, D.C. to Fairbanks.)

Shortly after Debbie and the Judge returned, work began on the addition of two new rooms to the house. These added rooms are the present parlor and small northwest bedroom; the original sitting room became the dining room. The wood shed was probably closed in and a bedroom completed in a shed-roofed addition on the north side of the house. Through the end of August, 1906, the Judge and Debbie worked to arrange the new part of the house and get it settled and comfortable, for they planned to spend the winter in their house for the first time. To this end, they had also installed a heating plant. It was all completed by October, for Wickersham writes in his diary, "Mrs. Maddocks gave a card party for the club yesterday at our house. Mrs. W. has it now newly papered etc. and the hot air furnace makes it a delightful, warm, and cozy home."

Wickersham sold the house for $1,500 in 1922.

At the time the house was moved to Alaskaland in 1968, the original kitchen, woodshed, closet, porch and a north addition were deemed too deteriorated to be moved. The kitchen was recreated in 1986. The original sitting room of 1904, now the dining room, and the parlor and northwest bedroom or study of 1906 have been restored. The house has been furnished to suggest how it might have looked when occupied by the Wickershams between 1906 and 1910.

Back to the Tanana-Yukon Historical Society Home Page