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
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 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.
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
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.
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