The Alaska celebrates 90th birthday

Hotel and bar marks 90 years with a party and fund-raising auction for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Alaskan Hotel and Bar is celebrating its 90th birthday Friday, Sept. 12, with a bottle of Dom Perignon.

But instead of popping the cork and sharing the expensive champagne with the clientele, the downtown bar is going to auction off the bottle and give the proceeds to the Make-A-Wish foundation.

The celebration and fund-raiser is the brainchild of the hotel's doorman, Richard Van Trump II, who goes by the nickname "Tiny."

"This is its 90th anniversary - this is a historical thing, and I got excited about it," Van Trump said.

The Alaskan was founded by three miners who struck it rich on the Canadian side of the Coast Mountains. When the proprietors held the grand opening celebration Sept. 16, 1913, they tied the keys to the building to a helium-filled balloon and declared that the hotel never would close.

Except for a few hours in the 1970s when the building was condemned, the original proprietors' pledge has held, said Bettye Adams, who owns the hotel with her husband, Mike. The couple bought the hotel in 1977 with Jerry Buckley, who has since gotten out of the business.

Van Trump came up with the idea for the fund-raiser when a tourist gave him a bottle of Dom Perignon last week, he said.

"I don't know who she was. She just walked in and gave it to me," he said.

He decided to auction the bottle at the bar and give the profits to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the name of Bob Hirsh, a Juneau boy who has leukemia and saw a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game with the help of the foundation. Hirsh's mother, Sue Hirsh, is close friends with Adams.

But Van Trump didn't stop with the bottle of champagne. Last week, he solicited local businesses for more items to auction or raffle.

"I just started out walking around with my notebook, and I started just asking," he said. "Everybody has been wonderful. It's been such a cool thing."

Among the raffle and auction items are helicopter and floatplane trips, whale-watching expeditions, dinners at local restaurants and gift certificates to local stores. Van Trump began selling raffle tickets for $5 each while working the door at the bar last weekend, he said.

The party and fund-raiser will begin at about 9 p.m. Friday at the Alaskan. Chemistry, the Los Angeles-area band that has been playing at the bar for the past month, will perform its last local show this weekend.

"It's going to be a party," Van Trump said.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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