The Port of Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and, with almost 283 thousand residents, it holds over two-fifths of the State’s population. The Port of Anchorage is also the main commercial center for Alaska. Its economy is based on defense, natural resources, and tourism. It lies at the base of the Chugach Mountains at the head of Cook Inlet.
The Russians established a mission opposite the inlet from modern Anchorage in 1835, but little development occurred until the discovery of gold in the late 19th Century. The city was established in 1914 as a port for the Alaska Railroad. The railroad’s headquarters, Ship Creek Landing, soon became a tent city. In 1918, the rail link with Seward was completed.
The Port of Anchorage was incorporated in 1920 with the railroad being its main focus. During the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, the federal government helped settlers from the suffering mid-west to move to the Port of Anchorage to develop an agricultural community.
When air transportation and the U.S. military became more important between the 1930s and 1950s, the city grew steadily. In 1930, Merfill Field opened. The 1940s saw the construction of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson. Then in 1951, Anchorage International Airport opened.
In March 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake struck the Port of Anchorage, killing 115 Alaskans and causing almost $2 billion (2007 US). The 1960s was dominated by rebuilding efforts.
Oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, and the oil boom created greater growth for the Port of Anchorage. When the city merged with outlying communities in 1975, it became known as the Municipality of Anchorage. It continued to grow into the 1980s as the city undertook many capital projects and a beautification campaign.