Tatlanika Gift Shop, Alaska, ca 1980
Bob found this postcard dating from the late 1980s among several others when he was cleaning out some old boxes recently. The picture of the Tatlanika Gift Shop at milepost 276 on the Fairbanks-Anchorage Highway is from an original pen and ink drawing by Alaskan artist Marybeth Harder. Notice the Moose antlers above the entrance and at both sides of the building as well as the old snow shoes mounted on the outside wall. It also looks like a bear hide tacked to the door and at least one blanket handing on the railing.
From what I could discover the items for sale in the gift shop are not the typical cheap trinkets found in many such shops but are instead things made by local Alaskan artisans and of quality. Another thing that seems to astound campers is that the campground has very clean restrooms with flush toilets and showers both practically unheard of for such an out of the way place.
The Gift Shop established in 1986 is on the grounds of the small Tatlanika Campground and RV Park that has room for eleven guests and is located near the town of Nenana, Alaska and the Clear Air Force Station, part of the Alaska Air National Guard early warning station. The Clear station was one of the Alaska World War II Army Airfields later it was converted to a radar station with additional structures constructed in the late 1950s. Still in use today it has been further modified with the Space Warning Squadron taking on the early warning/space surveillance mission using updated computer processing and software improvements that enhance the capability.
The town of Nenana with a population of about 400 is situated at the confluence of the Nenana and Tanana Rivers. The Mears Memorial Bridge that spans the Tanana River is 700 feet in length (210 meters) was built as part of Alaska’s railroad project to connect Anchorage and Fairbanks. At one time this bridge was the longest truss bridge in the United States.
When Europeans first came to the area they called the town Tortella because they couldn’t manage the native word Toghotthele that means “mountain that parallels the river.” Russians bartered for goods and furs here as early as 1838. After the United States purchased Alaska from the Russians in 1867 American explorers and traders began entering this area in the 1870s. The name was changed to Nenana after the river and the people who lived there. With the discovery of gold in Fairbanks in 1902 there was an increase of activity. In 1903 Jim Duke built the first trading post/roadhouse that could supply the natives and the travelers coming though on the river. It wasn’t possible to tell if the original trading post still stands or if the shop on this postcard is a replacement.
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