• pond surrounded by green brush, reflecting a distant range of snow-covered mountains that are dominated by one massive mountain

    Denali

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Sidebar: First Schoolhouse

Historic photo of wooden structures
P44-05-026A, Alaska State Library, Skinner Foundation Photograph Collection
 
Experience Your America

The Alaska territorial government required a minimum enrollment of six children before it would provide a teacher and school supplies. Harry Karstens, and a helper, built the first school from salvaged lumber. Once the woodstove was installed, school started in November 1922. Aladdin-type kerosene lamps provided basic illumination.

Mrs. Louise Ann Fairburn, a retired teacher from Fairbanks, with 20 years of teaching experience in Alaska, was hired as the first teacher. She was a disciplinarian who emphasized the "three R’s" — reading, writing, and arithmetic — but did not neglect fine arts. Fairburn initially taught grades one, five, and six, and added curriculum for other grades as needed. Adult night classes met three times a week.

The school put on Christmas socials, musicals, and plays. As often happens in rural communities, the school quickly became a social center. Old-timers often joined the audience for poetry readings, songs, and skits.

 
Historic image of family in front of a log cabin
Courtesy Karstens Family
 
 

Did You Know?

a white, two-peaked mountain

Mount McKinley, located within Denali National Park and Preserve, is the highest mountain on the North American continent. Measured from the 2,000 foot lowlands to its snowy summit at 20,320 feet, the mountain’s vertical relief of 18,000 feet is greater than that of Mount Everest.