Seward, Alaska

Alaska Starts Here!®

A Word from the city itself!

City Profile

Seward, pronounced “Soo-word,” is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. It is surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains which are blanketed with lush green vegetation, trees and alpine wild flowers.  Footrace famous Mt. Marathon is the western backdrop of Seward with Harding Ice field lined along the back extending to the coast.  Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords National Park and Caines Head State Recreation area are nearby.  Founded in 1903 as the ocean terminus of what is now the Alaska Railroad, Seward prides itself, not only on its natural beauty, but as Alaska’s only deep-water, ice-free port with rail, highway and air transportation to Alaska’s interior and major urban population centers.  This strategically positions Seward for Pacific Rim maritime commerce.  Seward is a progressive community that enjoys a beautiful and scenic natural Alaskan environment with numerous visitor attractions.  The town offers day cruises, kayaking, fishing, abundant marine activities and wildlife, unparalleled recreation and is the terminus for the Alaska Railroad.

Seward is the gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park, was named All-American City in 1963, 1965, and 2005, and enjoys a low mill rate of 3.12.  Within the city there is a 7% sales tax and a 4% bed tax.  Our population within city limits is about 2,600 people, with another 2,600 people living just beyond our city boundaries.  Seward experiences a maritime climate with average winter temperatures ranging from 17 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and average summer temperatures ranging 49 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit.  We can see 66 inches on average of rain a year, and 80 inches of snowfall.

We, the City of Seward, are proud to serve our constituents, and encourage you to visit, and welcome you to our picturesque coastal community. [1]

Hotel Seward

Upon arriving in Seward, my brothers and I had yet to book a place to sleep for the night, assuming there would be plenty of places available. After checking into it, there were only a few operational, due to the time of our visit being off-season. We were so glad with our choice at Hotel Seward, it was historical and had comfortable accommodations and a friendly staff.

Hotel Seward Early 1900’s

Hotel Seward was originally built in the Early 1900’s as Seward’s Best Hotel. In 1905 when William McNeiley built Hotel Seward, Seward Lodging was in it’s infancy. Hotel Seward has always been the place to stay when visiting Seward and the Kenai Penninsula.  Today Hotel Seward consists of two wings, the Historic Wing and the Alaskan Wing comprising what now appears to be one building.

The Historic Wing, Hotel Seward Alaska consists of 24 smaller, comfortably-sized rooms accommodate two guests.  Each room does have a variety of amenities, free wireless Internet and local calls, cable T.V. with HBO, AM/FM alarm clock and additional in room toiletries. Today’s Historic Wing, does not have an elevator, so make sure and specify a ground floor room, be prepared to carry you luggage up the Historic Stairs, or book your room in the Alaskan Wing. The New Alaskan Wing is completely renovated and does have elevator access, as well as  other upgrades.

History shows that the owners of Hotel Seward have always been modernizing, renovating, and continuing to improve the quality of their guests Seward Lodging, and that tradition at Hotel Seward continues today. The new owners of Hotel Seward, Mark and Mary, have partially renovated all of the Historic Wing rooms, completely renovated the lobbies, hallways, common areas, and most rooms.  Additionally a new Lounge/Restaurant “Ms. Gene’s Place”, named after Ms. Gene Bradley, the previous owner, has been added to the Historic Wing, as well as an outside deck accompanying the lounge.

More information and reservations here

Alaska Sealife Center

This was one of the coolest things we did in Seward! The Sealife Center showcases many animals that you would see in the area, all kinds of fish, sea birds, and larger animals like the sea lion. It was bustling with animal activity and the displays were informative and interactive. I am sure during peak season there are even more options, yet showcased several experiences you can pay extra for and pet different animals and such, check out their site for more information here.

Cuisine

The food in town was some of the best, if not the best we had during our time in Alaska. The first night we were there we went to the The Highliner Restaurant and it was so delicious, not to mention the portions were huge…even for us guys! The next day for brunch, we headed to the Smoke Shack restaurant and had a filling and tasty meal, sausage, eggs, biscuits, burritos, etc. It has a cool atmosphere, you dine in a train car! Overall, the food scene is incredible for such a small town, the ingredients and unique flavors add a spin to just about everything you eat in comparison to the lower-48.

History of Seward

The small city of Seward is nestled at the foot of Mount Marathon along the scenic shoreline of Resurrection Bay, a restless, fickle body of water teeming with abundant species of fish and amazing marine mammals. In 1792 the bay was sighted and named on Resurrection Day, Easter Sunday, by Alexander Baranof, the most famous of Alaska’s early Russian explorer-governors. Against a backdrop of peaks and passes sculpted by Ice Age glaciers, Seward’s ice-free harbor has long served as a natural gateway to the vast scenic and resource riches of Alaska’s huge interior.

The city of Seward was named for President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, the man who engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The city was officially founded in 1903 on a long-abandoned Native village site, but the town had already been a Gold Rush encampment for at least a decade. Optimistic prospectors heard tales of a trail that led from Seward to riches-to-be, and on to Cook Inlet. That dogsled trail would indeed lead to the rich strikes at Hope and Sunrise and later to the bonanza at Iditarod, a place name commemorated in today’s Iditarod Sled Dog Race, and on to Nome.

Then in 1903, a party of railroad men arrived and laid out the present city in a traditional grid of city blocks and wide streets that would be familiar to anyone from similar small railroad towns across America. In the boasting spirit of frontier towns, one of Seward’s streets was named Millionaires Row for the gold barons, another was called Home Brew Alley for obvious reasons. The new railroad that was built to reach Cook Inlet (the city of Anchorage) was called the Alaska Central Railway. It would later become the Anchorage to Seward route of today’s Alaska Railroad.

Seward’s history is well documented in a variety of websites and can be seen close up and personally at the Resurrection Bay Historical Society Museum located at 239 6th Avenue on the lower level of the community library. [1]

The Alaska Railroad.

Seward was incorporated in 1912, and in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson chose Seward as the main railroad route into Alaska’s interior. The fate of the railroad fluctuated for many years until the advent of World War II.  During the war, Seward and its port prospered.  Resurrection Bay became a strategic military port, and by 1944 the railroad was one of the most prosperous in the United States.  

1964 “Good Friday” Earthquake.”

In 1964, an earthquake that measured 9.2 on the richter scale was centered 95 air miles northeast of Seward.  The quake, several tsunami waves, and resulting fires severely damaged the town and the rail yards.  Eventually both the town and railroad were restored, but rail service took many years to recover.  Remnants of that earthquake can still be seen along the waterfront today, with a movie being shown at the Seward Library during the summer months. [3]

Sources:

[1] “Welcome to an Engaged Community.” Seward, AK – Official Website – City Profile, http://www.cityofseward.us/index.aspx?NID=764.

[2] “Welcome to Seward, Alaska.” Seward.com – Alaska Starts Here!, http://www.seward.com/.

I hope everyone gets the chance to visit Seward, my recommendation, go in the summer. Whale watching, great food, and beautiful National Parks all around the area. Get out there and explore! If you haven’t already, please check out my ‘Meet the Explorer’ series on my blog!

Follow my adventures on Instagram: @Gtcarden

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