All is Burley and Bright (Your Secret is Safe with Me)_410101

December 31, 2014 Posted by: Katie Myers

December’s Object of the Month is a handwritten note that was found hidden inside a fireplace 30 years after it was placed there.


handwritten note in blue ink on unlined paper. The note is blotched with what appears to be water stains.  Green metal can. Red oval on top left reads

Between 1947 and 1952, Dr. Elmer Bly, a dentist, built a house for his wife Maizie’s and himself in Port Alsworth, on what is today known as “The Point” in Hardenburg Bay. This house was one of the first houses built in the area.  Elmer designed his house. He also helped Joe Thompson and Mike Vandegrift saw the logs and build the house. Elmer did much of the finish work himself—he was an excellent hobby woodworker and carpenter.


In the living room, a granite stone fireplace was built. The stones for the fireplace were gathered from a small niche in Hardenburg Bay known to locals as Pike Bay. As it turned out, the 6-inch flue was not large enough to draw adequately causing the chimney to smoke. Doc Bly was very disappointed and consequently the couple did not use the fireplace often.


Doc Bly retired and he and his wife eventually moved back to Anchorage. In 1957, he sold his house to Allen Woodward. Allen sold the property to the National Park Service in 1979 while Lake Clark was still a National Monument. The NPS began a major renovation of the interior of the house, with the intention of using the house as the park headquarters.


By 1980, the fireplace was sinking below the living room floor and it was removed. NPS staff replaced the fireplace with a thin stone hearth and a wood burning heater. During this restoration process, on August 2, 1982, while removing some of the stones for the fire place, maintenance staff discovered a small pipe tobacco tin inside the fireplace. Inside of that tin, which proclaimed the contents were “Burley and Bright” was a note, handwritten in blue ink by the Blys, 30 years before. The note read:


“July 19, 1952.

This fire place was built by Dr. E.L. Bly of Anchorage, Alaska. Stones are from the cliff around the channel on Clark Lake.

Wondering if this note will ever be found and by whom.

We think this is the most beautiful spot in Alaska.

Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Bly”


The woodstove installed in place of the original fire place is still used to this day, more than 30 years after it was installed. The house did become Lake Clark’s first park headquarters, however, its use again became a home—this is what the purpose of the house is to this day—residence for NPS employees and their families. Another generation continues to warm themselves by the fire in the most beautiful spot in Alaska.

black and white photo looking across Hardenburg Bay towards Port Alsworth with Martha's Mountain reflecting in the water. No other buildings are in view.

Historic photo showing the view from the Bly House across Hardenburg Bay towards Martha's Mountain.  

Color photo looking across Hardenburg Bay towards Port Alsworth with Martha's Mountain in the background. Buildings are visible on the shoreline and float-planes in the bay.
Modern day photo showing the view across Hardenburg Bay towards Martha's Mountain with some of Port Alsworth visible on the shoreline.  

1 Comments Comments icon

  1. January 25, 2015 at 09:44

    What a nice view!

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Last updated: April 14, 2015

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