Roadhouse Resort Grand Opening

In 1958, the “new” Paxson Lodge opened its doors for business. Sadly, this Richardson Highway icon closed in December 2013. The following article is about the opening of the new lodge and all its modern features:

Fairbanks Daily News Miner- June 10, 1958


The new Paxson Lodge at the entrance to the Denali Highway on the Richardson, attracted more than 3,000 people during the opening weekend over Memorial Day. The quarter of a million-dollar resort hotel in the heart of Alaska’s big game and fishing country was built this past year by Mr. and Mrs. John Windust and sons who have planned it as a year-round attraction.

The fire-proof concrete block, cedar siding and glass structure overlooks snow peaked mountains of the Alaska Range and commands a view of both the Richardson Highway and the Denali, that leads to McKinley Park.

Over-night guests for the Memorial Day weekend filled the new lodge’s 20 sleeping rooms to capacity and overflowed to 33 more in the historic old lodge one half mile north on the Richardson.

A landing strip for small planes is just south of the new lodge.

Paxson’s Lodge, which began as an early day roadhouse during the early 1900s when horse drawn sledges and stages were used to transport passengers, freight and millions of dollars of gold bullion to the port of Valdez, has remained an important way point between Fairbanks, Valdez or Anchorage.

Since 1943, it has been owned and operated by the Windust family.

Windust himself drew up the original plans which were drawn by the Alaska Architectural and Engineering Co. The new lodge is as modern as the old lodge is rustic. Besides the 20 sleeping rooms and private baths on the second floor, there is a spacious dining room with counter, individual tables and chairs on the first floor which also includes a gracious lobby and huge fireplace. At the lobby’s far end is a sporting goods shop with souvenir counters.

The basement is the recreation area and is arranged with a small bar, room for dancing, and later, a large game room, complete with putting green.

Willard Jones, well known Alaskan artist, went down from Fairbanks to hang a number of paintings in the new lodge. A huge painting of Mt. McKinley dominates the dining room while a picture of Resurrection Bay, Seward, is over the fireplace. Many others are scattered about the lodge. The pictures are on loan to the lodge and are for sale.

Winter recreation will feature a huge ski run, built as firewood for the lodge was cut, Windust said. The lodge itself is both lighted and heated from a 60 KW Caterpillar plant and the kitchen is ultra-modern, all electric. The building is virtually wrapped in insulation. Fire hoses are placed at intervals.

Note: The guest list was also published in the above article and a great many of those guests for the Grand Opening of the Paxson Lodge were members of the Pioneers of Alaska from both the Fairbanks and Valdez Igloos. There are some very nice photos of both the inside and outside of the new lodge that are part of the Batchelder slide collection that is available for viewing at the Pioneer Museum in Fairbanks.

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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