Marge Gull Painting of Miller’s Roadhouse, at Mile 214 of Valdez-Fairbanks Trail
The painting is of Miller’s Roadhouse at mile 214 of the trail (144 miles from Fairbanks). It was sometimes called McDevitt’s in its early years, but incomplete records from that period mean that who exactly built it will probably never be known. Constructed between 1904 and 1906, by 1910 it was operated by Wilson Miller.
It was located in the Delta River canyon, along one of the windiest sections of the trail, and was a very welcome stop for winter travelers. According to records it was one of the few roadhouses with an indoor well. It also boasted a heated barn.
Between 1910 and 1917 the roadhouse was operated by John Bowman. Bowman had been a logger in California before coming to Alaska, and had broken his knee in a logging accident. The accident left him with a stiff knee, which forced him to swing his leg in a wide circle as he walked. His gait left a large circular track in snow, earning him the nichname of “Flatwheel.” During Bowman’s tenure as proprietor the roadhouse was sometimes called “Flatwheel’s Place.”
Completion of the Alaska Railroad in 1923 meant a sharp decline in travelers along the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, and Miller’s roadhouse was abandoned. By 1923 the roadhouse was listed as a relief cabin and was used as a trapper’s cabin. It eventually burned down and there is no evidence of it now.
Genevieve Marguerite (Marge) Gull (who died in 2013) came to Alaska with her husband in 1938, living first in Fairbanks and then Anchorage. She was an amateur painter and painted 49 of the roadhouses along the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail.
I assume that at least some of her paintings were done from photographs since many of the roadhouses disappeared long before Marge came to Alaska. This painting is in the collection of the Valdez Museum. I’ll be adding more paintings periodically. For more of Marge’s paintings follow this link