Matanuska Susitna Borough

2nd Class Borough

2015 Population: 98,063

Size: 25,259 Square Miles

Historical Preservation Commission: The goal of the Historical Preservation Commission is to promote and maintain cultural heritage and historic integrity within the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and to cultivate economic benefits through historic preservation. To do this we protect significant historic and prehistoric resources, material remains, writing and oral histories within the borough for the benefit of those in the present and future. 

Date certified:    1987

Dorothy Page MuseumCommission Website 
Alaskan Community Profile

MatSu Map
Map of Mat-Su
  • CLG Grants

    • Palmer Water Tower 

      Historic Preservation Planning Grants

      Willow, Houston, and Susitna Historic Preservation Plans. 2008.
      National Heritage Areas Designation Study,
      Phase I, 2006; Phase II, 2007.
      Protection of Palmer's Historic District: Matanuska Colony Historic District Design Guidelines. 2005. Preservation of the Palmer Historic District: Building the Future, Preserving and Enhancing the Matanuska Colony Historic District. 2004.
      Historic Preservation Plan and Ordinance Review for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough
      . 2002.

      Survey and Inventory Grants

      Cottonwood Creek Archaeological District: Survey and National Register nomination. 2013, 2015.
      Middle Susitna Archaeological Survey and Inventory. 2012.
      City of Wasilla Historic and Prehistoric Sites Survey. 2009.
      Old Knik Townsite Survey, Evaluation, and Inventory. Phase I, 1997-1998, Phase II, 1999; Phase III, 2000; Phase IV, 2001.
      Archaeological Survey and Inventory.   1995.
      Chief Wasilla's House Site Survey and Inventory.   1994.
      Homestead Sites in the Matanuska-Susitna Area Survey and Inventory. Phase 1, 1991; Phase II, 1993. Chickaloon and Carle Wagon Trails Evaluation of Sites. 1992.
      Talkeetna Evaluation of Historic Sites. 1989.
      Matanuska Coal Field Historic Contexts and Survey. 1988.
      Palmer Evaluation of Historic Sites. 1987.

      National Register of Historic Places Grants

      Palmer Agricultural Research Station Housing draft National Register nomination. 2010.
      Talkeetna Historic District National Register Nomination. 1990.
      The Settlement and Economic Development of Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Valley Multiple Property National Register Nomination with individual nominations for the Community Center, Hyland Hotel, Bailey Farm, Patten Farm, Puhl House, Herried House, and Berry House. 1989.

      Historic Preservation Development/Predevelopment Grants

      Knik Pool Hall. 2010.

      Historic Preservation Education Grants

      Wasilla Interpretive Signs. 2011.
      Matanuska Colony Community Center Historic District Interpretive Signs and Brochure. Phase 1, 2001; Phase II, 2003.
      Old KinikTownsite Interpretive Signs. 2003.
      Historic Preservation in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Slide Show.     1992.
      Major Coal Towns of the Matanuska Valley: A Pictorial History and Educational Curriculum. 1990.

      Commission Training Grants

      National Alliance of Preservation Commissions Forum 2014. 2014, 1999
      CLG Workshop. 2001.

       

  • A Brief History

    • The borough boundaries are defined by two major rivers. The Susitna River cuts between the Alaska Range and Talkeetna Mountains, and the Matanuska River cuts between the Talkeetna and Chugach Mountain ranges. Athapaskans, particularly the Dena’ina and Ahtna people, traveled through the river valleys for thousands of years to fish, hunt, and trade with others. Evidence of their settlements, camps, and travel routes have contributed to understanding the people and where and how they lived. The Tangle Lakes Archaeological District at the eastern end of the borough’s boundaries is a particularly rich area of archaeological sites.  

      Russian fur traders started making contact with Dena’ina people and exploring the two river valleys in the late 1700s. They did not establish permanent fur trading posts, but traders regularly came to several locations, including Knik and Susitna Station, to trade. American traders did the same after 1867. In the 1880s prospectors started venturing up the river valleys searching for gold and coal deposits. Placer gold was discovered in the 1890s in Willow Creek and lode gold in 1906 in Hatcher Pass. A number of hard rock gold mines operated in the Willow Creek Mining District until World War II. There was some mining activity after, and recreational mining today. In 1981 the State of Alaska purchased the buildings of the Independence Mine for a state historic park. The coal deposits in the Matanuska River valley had been of particular interest for development in the early 1900s. To reach the gold and coal mining areas, prospectors developed trails and roads, often incorporating trails the Dena’ina and Ahtna people had established. The supply center for the mining districts grew in the early 1900s around the Knik trading site at the head of Cook Inlet.  

      One of the reasons for selection of the Seward-Fairbanks route for the railroad the federal government decided to construct in Alaska was access to the Matanuska coal deposits for the U.S. Navy. The government built a spur from the main track and coal mining started at Chickaloon in 1916, but was abandoned a few years later. Along the main line, the Alaska Railroad platted several townsites, among them Wasilla and Talkeetna. The railroad bypassed Knik and the town was virtually abandoned as businessmen literally moved their buildings to Wasilla or Anchorage.  

      After its completion in 1923, the railroad worked with the Agricultural Extension Service to encourage people to homestead in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys. The campaign brought a few settlers, but it was the selection of the area in 1935 for a New Deal resettlement community that helped establish farms in the valley. The Matanuska Colony administrative center was placed where George Palmer had opened a trading post in 1916. The colony farms radiated out from it. There were design options for the farmhouses, barns and chicken coops on the individual 40 and 80 acre tracts. The administrative center with community and commercial buildings and an area with housing for the administrators, was designed around a quadranglee. Construction of a road between Anchorage and Palmer started when the colony was established, and during World War II it was extended to connect with the Richardson Highway, the principal road in the territory at the time. The road was named the Glenn Highway. Only in 1951 did the City of Palmer incorporate. Today, it is a center for agricultural research and administrative programs, and is the site for the largest of Alaska’s state fairs.

      Alaska’s population increased dramatically after World War II. The Bureau of Land Management made land in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys open to veterans for homesteads. Construction of a major road to connect Anchorage and Fairbanks, generally paralleling the Alaska Railroad, started and the Parks Highway as it is known today was completed in the early 1970s. The road opened areas for recreational cabins and activities such as hunting, fishing, skiing, and sled dog racing. Mountain climbing, particularly of Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley), became a popular pursuit. Several air taxi services based at the small railroad station town of Talkeetna started transporting climbers to the Ruth Glacier to start their ascents, and the National Park Service opened a ranger station in the community.    

      The Matanuska-Susitna Borough, encompassing 25,259 square miles, incorporated in 1964. It has been the fastest growing area of the state for the last twenty years. Today, the population is around 89,000 people.

  • National Register of Historic Places Listings

    • Teelands
      Tangle Lakes Archeological District (Boundary Decrease)Address RestrictedGlennallen
      Palmer DepotAK 1Palmer
      United Protestant ChurchS. Denali and Elmwood Sts.Palmer
      Independence Mines7278 East Bogard RoadPalmer
      Cunningham-Hall Pt-6,Nc-692W3800 W Museum Dr, Wasilla, AK 99654Palmer
      Rebarchek, Raymond, Colony FarmE. Rebarchek AvePalmer
      Matanuska Colony Community CenterE. Dogwood AvePalmer
      Hyland Hotel333 W. EvergreenPalmer
      Bailey Colony Farm3150 N. Glenn Hwy.Palmer
      Patten Colony FarmMi. 39.9 Glenn HwyPalmer
      Puhl House13151 E. Scott Rd.Palmer
      Herried House4400 N. Palmer Fishook Rd.Palmer
      Berry House5805 N. Farm Loop Rd.Palmer
      Campbell House1540 Inner Springer LoopPalmer
      Sutton Community HallJonesville Rd.Sutton
      Kirsch's PlaceMi. 1.5 Sunshine Rd./Mi. 215.3 Alaska RailroadTalkeetna
      Fairview InnMain St., TalkeetnaTalkeetna
      Curry LookoutAtop Curry Ridge, Mile 137.2, Parks Hwy.Talkeetna
      Talkeetna Historic DistrictRoughly bounded by C, First, D and Front Sts.Talkeetna
      Talkeetna AirstripRoughly from First St. S down D St. to the Susitna R.Talkeetna
      Wasilla Community Hall215 Main St., WasillaWasilla
      Knik SiteMi. 15 Knik Rd., west of WasillaWasilla
      Wasilla Elementary SchoolOff AK 3Wasilla
      Teeland's Country StoreKrazy Moose SubsWasilla
       405 E Herning Ave, Wasilla, AK 99654 
      Wasilla DepotParks Highway and Knik Rd.Wasilla
      Tryck, Blanche and Oscar, HouseNorth Knik St., bet. the Parks Hwy/Alaska RR and E. Herning Ave.Wasilla
      Whitney Section House3400 W. Neuser Dr.Wasilla