Tucked peacefully within the forests of southeast Alaska, on the western shore of American's longest fjord-- the Lynn Canal, Haines is surrounded by scenic majesty and abundance of wildlife. The beautiful Chilkat Valley draws thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing. This small community is often called "Alaska's Best Kept Secret".
Haines lies on the shores of the Lynn Canal on the Chilkat Peninsula between the Chilkoot and Chilkat Rivers and is bordered by the spectacular Chilkat Mountain Range on the west and the Coast Range on the east. The historic routes to the Klondike gold fields - the Chilkat, Chilkoot and White Pass - are to the north of the community. The area encompasses 13.5 square miles of land and 8.0 square miles of water.
Haines is 85 air miles northwest of the capital city of Juneau and about 600 air miles southeast of Anchorage and Fairbanks. It is connected by road to the interior of Alaska and the continental United States by the Alaska Canada (Alcan) Highway. (See maps of Haines).
The Tlingit Indians were the original inhabitants of the Chilkat Valley, which was a major conjunction of trade routes between the coast and the interior. This Haines area was called "Dtehshuh" meaning "end of the trail". The village of Klukwan, 22 miles from Haines, is still the mother village for the Tlingit nation. Their culture and totemic art is seen throughout the community of Haines.
Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary in Sitka, was asked by local Tlingits to build mission schools for each of the local villages. In 1879, Missionary S. Hall Young and Naturalist John Muir traveled to Yendustucky, selected as the site for the mission. In 1881, the Chilkat Mission was finally established by Eugene and Caroline Willard. The community was later renamed Haines in honor of the Secretary of the Presbyterian Women's Executive Society of Home Missions, Mrs. F.E. Haines, who had raised funds for the mission.
Well known historical figure and entrepreneur, Jack Dalton, following a Tlingit trade route, established a freight trail to the gold fields of the interior during the mid 1890's. The Dalton Trail, as it became known, reached over the Chilkat Pass and followed the same general route you now drive on the Haines Highway.
At the beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890's, Haines grew as a mining supply center. As the U.S.-Canada boundary dispute heated during the Klondike Gold Rush, Ft. William H. Seward was commissioned in 1898 as a U.S. military presence. Garrisoned in 1903, the army post became a major component of Haines economy, until it was deactivated after WW II. The fort was purchased by a group of veterans and today is a National Historic Landmark. The fort buildings are now lovely residences, hotels, bed & breakfasts and arts centers.
During the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s, Haines grew as a mining supply center since the Dalton Trail from Chilkat Inlet to Whitehorse offered an easier route to the Yukon prospectors. Gold was also discovered near Haines in 1899 at the Porcupine District.
The first permanent U.S. military installation, Fort William H. Seward, was constructed south of Haines in 1904. Until WWII, it was the only U.S. Army post in Alaska. It was deactivated in 1946 and sold as surplus property to a group of veterans. In 1970, it merged with Haines into one municipality, and in 1972, it was designated a national historic site. Replicas of Indian tribal buildings have been erected on the parade grounds. Most of the original buildings remain in use as private residences, galleries, and various tourism-related businesses.
The City of Haines was incorporated in 1910 and the area was incorporated as Haines Borough in 1968. Until 2002, the first class City of Haines and the 3rd class Haines Borough were separate municipalities. In the fall of 2002, residents voted to consolidate these governments and form the Home Rule Haines Borough. This consolidated the former City of Haines with the Lutak land use Area, the Mud Bay Land use Service Area and the surrounding population centers in outlying areas that had no powers of planning and zoning. This transition and consolidation had been completed in spring of 2004. This document plan is designed to serve as a guide for citizens and civic decision-makers concerning land use, growth and development and enhancement of the quality of life for residents and voters to the community.
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