Juneau has lost its sense of identity

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, June 13, 2005

The happiest times of my childhood were the years that I lived in Juneau from 1937 through 1941. I decided several months ago that I would celebrate my 80th birthday by going back to Juneau to visit the city I love.

When I got off the ship the first time I came to Juneau in 1937, I was awestruck by the act of walking into an Alaskan frontier mining town. I must say that on my recent visit, I felt that walking down Franklin Street where the cruise ships disembark was much the same as getting off of a cruise ship in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. I could buy Spanish Lladro at a Little Switzerland store there too. It is not what I was looking forward to seeing.

Santa Barbara, Calif., where I was born, is a city with much community activism concerning historic preservation, architectural continuity, and building size and style regulation. Some would say too much regulation. But it is a very desirable place to live and to visit because of that. It appears to me that Juneau is in need of much more of that sort of community activism and regulation.

Thomas Wolfe was right; you can't go home again. The architecture that created that ambiance of a frontier mining town, like so many communities across the nation that discovered too late the importance of what they tore down to put a parking lot in its place, is for the most part gone. But Juneau still has many examples of historic buildings that should be preserved, restored, and regulated before it is too late for them as well. I hope the citizens and government of Juneau will become more active and concerned with historical and architectural preservation and regulatory guidelines to that end. Maybe I'll come back on my 90th birthday to see how things are going.

Patti (Clark) Lazarich

Oxnard, Calif.

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