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Neglected Beauty

Today’s History Nugget is about the old Barnette house which sat on First Avenue next to the Masonic Hall. In the late 1950s, Fairbanks engaged in an extensive urban renewal program which brought about the demise of many old buildings in the city, including the historic Barnette home. After it was torn down, the First Christ Scientist church was moved from Third Avenue to the site. Originally, the church was  located downtown roughly where the Mt. McKinley Bank parking lot is today. It is important to remember that the church also had to be moved from downtown to prevent demolition.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner August 25, 1959

OLD LANDMARK PASSES

Demolition of the old Captain E. T. Barnette property on 1st Ave. has been the occasion for considerable regret and rightfully so.

The passing of old landmarks from the Fairbanks scene, though inevitable, is seldom applauded, even by those who are 100 per cent in favor of progress and totally unconcerned with history.

The Barnette house was in a category by itself. It was built in 1904 as the first permanent residence in the city. The beautiful Barnette home of that day was in sharp contrast to the shacks and tents that lined the muddy streets of the city.

However, since that time, the “first home” in Fairbanks fell into dreary disrepair. Windows were broken, contents of the house’s interior were strewn around and the structure, unhappily, was becoming a major eyesore.

Several groups attempted to work out plans for saving the famous old home, but none of them came to culmination.

As part of the estate of Mrs. Hulda Ford, the property was sold to a local church, which plans to use the site for its headquarters.

Demolition of the home had to proceed, so the lot could be occupied by the church. Seeing the city’s first structure being torn down was an unhappy and unpleasant experience for many- but looked at in another way very necessary to the progress of the city.

The church which will occupy the old Barnette property is moving to make way for the modern urban renewal development.

This makes possible new buildings which will further enhance the beauty of Fairbanks.

Though a historic old building like the Barnette home has to go to make this progress possible, we think Captain Barnette himself would have wanted it this way.

Since all efforts to save the house were in vain, the dilapidated old home certainly did not do justice to the memory of that venerable old pioneer. In view of the fact that restoration was not possible, then demolition was the only way out, unless the old house was to be allowed to become more unsightly and uncared for with each passing year.

We must pay a certain price for all progress—and the memories and associations bound up with the old Barnette house can be reckoned, in this instance, as part of that price.

Fortunately, the logs of the old Barnette house have been salvaged by H. L. Bevington, owner of Fort Caribou on College Road. We believe that the city should do everything possible to cooperated with Mr. Bevington in his plan to reconstruct the house as a tourist attraction.

Note: Does anyone out there know what happened to the salvaged logs of the old Barnette home? Thankfully the congregation of the church has done a great job of maintaining their historic building on the site of the old Barnette Home. This History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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