Palmer Railroad Depot – Palmer AK

City:
Palmer, AK

Site Type:
Forestry and Agriculture, Resettlement Communities

New Deal Agencies:
Resettlement Administration (RA), Housing Programs, Work Relief Programs, Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)

Started:
1935

Completed:
1935

Quality of Information:
Very Good

Marked:
No

Site Survival:
Extant

Description

The Palmer Depot is a historic train station built in 1935 to provide transportation to the Matanuska Valley Colony. The Alaska Railroad was the main means of transportation to the Matanuska Valley at the time.

The Matanuska Valley Colony, was established at what became Palmer by the Resettlement Administration (RA) in order to foster the development of agriculture in the Alaska territory. Land plots in Matanuska Valley had been subdivided and open for homesteading starting with 1914, but the land was difficult to cultivate and economic growth was slower than expected.

Staring with 1935, the New Deal brought a completely new approach to resettlement in the Valley. A nomination form of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) describes the transformation of the area and the role of the Palmer Depot in the development of Palmer: 

“In 1935 a social experiment of the New Deal changed the course of the Valley. In May 1935 an armada of colonists, selected and subsidized by the federal government, arrived at Palmer to take claim to land as cooperative homesteaders. This was one of several social experiments at the time, in which government agencies planned and executed relocation of groups of people from an economically depressed environment to one in which, hopefully, they could establish an economically successful life, individually and as a community.

The activity resulting from establishment of this experimental community created the need for a transportation depot at this place on the railroad. The depot and warehouse structure was constructed in the fall of 1935 in response to this demand. The structure is physical evidence of the development of Palmer in consequence of the Matanuska Valley colonization of 1935.”

The same nomination describes the characteristics of the structure, which was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and identified as a contributing property to Matanuska Colony Community Center in 1991. “[The] Alaska Railroad Depot at Palmer …. was designed as a combination depot and warehouse. In appearance its style differed only slightly from other functional structures built for the same purposes along the right-of-way of the railroad…..[The] structure has no concrete base, such as that prepared for construction of the depot at Nenana in 1922….The total length of the building as constructed in 1935 was 93′ 10″. While the building was of functional design, its harmonious proportions related both to its function and to the image of a railroad.”

In recent years, the railroad use of the depot has declined and the community now uses most of the building for organizational space and social events.

Source notes

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, accessed on June 14, 2017.

Wikipedia Page for Palmer Depot, accessed on June 14, 2017.

Site originally submitted by Brent McKee on June 19, 2017.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

Location Info


Palmer Depot
Palmer, AK 99645
Matanuska-Susitna Borough County

Coordinates: 61.59992, -149.11362

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