The Story of North Pole
In 1891 Congress enacted legislation for town sites to be laid out in Alaska under regulations specified by the Secretary of the Interior. The same legislation made it possible for a person to obtain 160 acres outside town sites but only for trading and manufacturing purposes. This helped the growing number of fish canneries, if no one else.
More than fifty years later, Bon & Bernice Davis arrived in Fairbanks on April 7, 1944. They rented a car and drove down the Richardson Highway. At 15-Mile, an abandoned part of the original Richardson Trail led off into the timber along the west bank of 14-Mile Slough. They left the car on the main road and walked along the trail from which the snow had been plowed to enable trucks to haul cordwood. They walked for several hundred yards, stopping and looking. Finally, they topped, looked and both spoke the same words at the same time – “This is it!!!”
The land lying west of the slough was covered with scrub trees and brush. Tall spruce grew along the banks of the slough and on the land lying between it and the Pile-Driver Slough to the east. They had been told that grayling and beaver were plentiful in both streams where a variety of waterfowl made their summer homes. Moose, deer, wolves, fox, snowshoe rabbits, squirrels and spruce hen lived on their homestead to-be.
Little did they dream that their undistinguished 160 acres of scrub trees and brush would ever be more than just a homestead, much less that it would be called a city. Shortly after they obtained patent, they sold John Owen and George Manley each a one-acre tract fronting on the Richardson Highway for $500 an acre.
Among problems involved in starting a subdivision was selection of a suitable name. His dilemma was solved when he learned that the National Board of Geographic Names had given the name “Davis” to the switch built on his homestead when the railroad connecting Ladd Field and Eielson Air Force Base was constructed in 1948.
Ernest Finnel and James Ford each had a homestead adjoining the west side of his. Though they had filed about one year and a half after Bon Davis had left, the three received their patents almost at the same time. Finnel and Davis had discussed subdividing and both of them began doing it in 1950. Ford decided to keep his homestead intact.
With electrical power assured, their land became more in demand. Orland Carey bought the north 40 acres of the Bon Davis homestead in November, 1951, and gave it the name of Sequoia Subdivision. In February, 1952, Dahl and Gaske Development Company bought the Davis Subdivision and the balance of the homestead, except for a few parcels.
Dahl and Gaske, who had bought the Davis homestead and subdivided it, thought if the growing settlement there were named North Pole it would attract business. They reasoned that some toy manufacturer might be induces to locate a plant there so his products could be advertised as having been made in North Pole. Also, someone might start a Santa Land which would become a northern version of Disneyland.
They approached Bon Davis to petition the United States District Court to change the name from “Davis”, which had been the official name since 1949, to North Pole. Bon Davis thought that their idea was far-fetched but acceded to their request. U.S. District Judge Harry Pratt held a hearing and issued a decree making North Pole the official name.
When it was proposed that the two subdivisions be incorporated into a city known as North Pole, residents of Highway Park rallied their forces and soundly defeated the measure at an election. They wanted no part of North Pole, incorporated or otherwise.
Those living in North Pole clung to the idea of incorporation. Another election was held after the proposed boundaries were reduced so that only the original Davis homestead and part of the one belonging to James Ford were included. Incorporation carried at that election and North Pole became a first-class city on January 15, 1953.
The first city council had five members: Everett Dahl, James Ford, Ray Johnson, Robert McAtee and Con Miller. The council appointed James Ford as Mayor pro tem.
The “made in North Pole” endeavor failed to blossom, but North Pole has continued to grow. There continues to be interest in developing North Pole as a theme city, “Where the spirit of Christmas lives year round”.
Today, many streets bear holiday names: Santa Claus Lane, Snowman Lane, Kris Kringle, Mistletoe, Holiday Rd., Saint Nicholas Drive, North Star Drive, Blitzen, and Donnor. Street lights are decorated in candy cane motifs and many buildings are painted with Christmas colors and designs.
The Santa Claus House, the “official” home of Santa Claus greets all visitors who pass through the city on the Richardson Highway. Live reindeer, a variety of photo opportunities, and Santa Claus himself are available for photographs year round.
Each year the North Pole community starts the holiday season with a Winter Festival including fireworks, a candle lighting ceremony, Christmas in Ice ribbon-cutting ceremony, and a community tree lighting event the first weekend in December.