The Bunkhouse

The bunkhouse at Serpentine Hot Springs with the tors in the distance.
The bunkhouse at Serpentine Hot Springs.

NPS Photo

 

The bunkhouse is an example of just one of the many ways visitors still interact with the Bering Land
Bridge National Preserve. For many people the bunkhouse is a gateway to explore the natural features
of the preserve. Without the bunkhouse as a starting point, the wild lands of the preserve might seem
overwhelming.

Local residents disagree on how the bunkhouse was originally placed at its current location near
Serpentine Hot Springs. Numerous stories about the bunkhouse have circulated. The stories range
from local residents purchasing the bunkhouse to a senator buying the bunkhouse. To add to the
confusion, the Alaska Road Commission has records of completing a building project at Serpentine
Hot Springs in 1948. Although the history of the bunkhouse is unclear, one thing is certain,
the bunkhouse has become an important part of the way local residents and visitors interact with the
preserve.

The bunkhouse is a modular "knockdown" army structure typical of World War II design. During WWII the
army created "knock-down" kits and shipped them to various locations. These kits contained all of the
materials needed to quickly build a building. The army shipped "knock-down" kits to Nome during WWII.
By December 6th, 1942, there were 776 of these "knock-down" buildings and quonset huts within the city.
After WWII, the surplus buildings were sold. The Alaska Road Commission was responsible for buying many
"knock-down" buildings and quonset huts. It is possible that the Alaska Road Commission had the sections
of the bunkhouse moved to site and reassembled in 1942.

The bunkhouse has been updated several times since the late 1940s. The National Park Service (NPS) took
responsibility for Serpentine Hot Springs in 1980 after the establishment of the preserve. The NPS makes
improvements to the building, while being mindful of the wishes of local residents. Visitors also sometimes
make improvements, but are reminded to be conscious of the traditional atmosphere of the site. An early
NPS brochure for visitors of the preserve offered the following advice: "Serpentine Hot Springs has always
had a casual, relaxed, and shared atmosphere. All who found their way to the springs shared the
responsibility of caring for the facilities. Each person left the area in such a condition which contributed to
the next person's enjoyment. The National Park Service encourages newcomers to respect this tradition."
The tradition of people visiting and exploring the natural and man-made features of the preserve continues
to this day.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 220

Nome, AK 99762

Phone:

(800) 471-2352

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