Fate of historical site where 1st Alaska flag flew to be decided, city officials say

This undated photo shows a building that remains at the site of the Jesse Lee Home in Seward, Alaska, where the territorial flag, which later became the Alaska state flag, was flown. 
(Dorene Lorenz via AP)

Benson is believed to be the only Indigenous person to design circumstances flag, said Dorene Lorenz, a former Seward City Council member.

“I don’t understand why you would rush to destroy a landmark when there’s obviously interested parties wanting to present to you other options,” she said.

The Alaska Association for Historic Preservation plans to produce a last-ditch effort to save yourself the structure by creating a presentation within a public hearing before Monday’s scheduled vote. If successful, they will gather those with historic preservation expertise to formulate a plan.

“We got a lot of people who are anxious to get working on this,” the group’s president, Trish Neal, said. “And so, I have no qualms that we can’t pull this off. It’s just we have to get the city council to back off and let us do this.”

City officials said the house has deteriorated more within the last few decade, but Neal offered another engineer’s report using this spring that concluded “restoration is a viable option,” but must be done quickly.

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Attempts by individuals and friends over the years to refurbish the house have sputtered and stalled. Seward Mayor Christy Terry said if the Friends of the Jesse Lee Home lost a multimillion-dollar state grant a couple of years ago, ownership reverted to the city. The Legislature allocated $1 million of that to the city.

“We do not have the capacity right now to have an homage to a building that’s so degraded because of the inaction, frankly, of a group that was their very last chance to make that happen, that the state-funded incredibly well,” Terry said. “Something like that is never going to happen again.”

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She said there’s absolutely no rush to demolish the site, nevertheless the council includes a June 30, 2021, deadline to use state funding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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