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  • maryweiland

The Town Under One Roof

Whittier, Alaska is affectionately nicknamed the "town under one roof." Why? The 14-floor Begich Towers houses the majority of Whittier's ~255 residents. Talk about being close to your neighbors! The Begich Towers used to house military families and is now home to not only Whittier’s modest population, but also the city’s offices, church, post office, laundromat, general store, medical clinic, and police department.

Whittier put its name on the map during World War II, serving as an Army logistics support outpost due to its harbor being ice-free year-round. Two major buildings were later constructed at the advent of the Cold War that dominated the Whittier skyline: Hodge Building (now the Begich Towers) and the Buckner Building, which is still standing but completely abandoned.

Whittier now serves as the gateway to the Prince William Sound. You can easily catch a boat to fish or explore dozens of glaciers, waterfalls, or watch the abundant wildlife, including whales, sea otters (SO CUTE!), sea lions, eagles…and Bigfoot?! Whittier is also the launching point for many Alaskan cruises, whose ships easily tower over town while in port!

The only way to get to Whittier by car is via a one-way tunnel that changes direction at the top and bottom of the hour. Did I mention the tunnel is shared with the railroad 🚂?! As part of the war effort, the 2.5 mile Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel was constructed, which cuts through the heart of Maynard Mountain and is the largest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America.

Whittier is small, beautiful, and certainly rich in history. It’s worth a few minutes to read more about the Begich Towers as well as the tunnel - it’s truly fascinating! A stroll through town is rather quick, but Whittier offers some hiking trails and gorgeous vistas to enjoy.

TIP 1: Be sure to time your trip to Whittier according to the tunnel schedule…especially if you are catching a cruise. Cars going to Whittier enter the tunnel at the bottom of the hour; cars leaving Whittier at the top of the hour until 11pm. And somewhere in between, the Alaska train rolls through! Check the schedule for current times, closures, and procedures for oversized vehicles. ...

TIP 2: There isn’t much by way of food or shops, but there are a few options. Support the local economy, and head down to the end of the marina for a few places to eat and browse for trinkets (at the triangle). Or pack a picnic, sit on the beach, and soak in the beauty while waiting for the tunnel to open!

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