Lemeta neighborhood is eclectic mix of rustic cabins and modern homes
The late 1940s through the 1950s were a tumultuous period for Fairbanks. Military personnel and civilians poured into the area at an alarming pace as the Cold War with the Soviet Union heated up and the U.S. military expanded its presence and as mining rebounded from its wartime lull.
Terrence Cole’s report, Historic Resources of the Minnie Street Corridor, states that by 1950 the population of the Fairbanks area increased 240 percent from its 1940 level, and between 1950 and 1953 the population doubled to almost 31,000 people.
The supply of housing in Fairbanks proved sorely inadequate, with demand outstripping supply. New housing developments went up at a swift pace, but spare bedrooms and church fellowship halls were routinely pressed into serviced to temporarily house new residents.
In addition to developments such as Slaterville and Rickert Subdivision, which came into existence immediately before World War II and continued to fill up after the war, apartment complexes such as the Northward Building and Polaris Building were constructed, and new residential developments began popping up around the periphery of the city.
According to a 1986 city of Fairbanks report, “Historic Districts in the City of Fairbanks,” 20 subdivisions were developed in the Fairbanks area between 1944 and 1960. Subdivisions opened during this period included Hamilton Acres, Westgate, Taku and Aurora.
Lemeta subdivision was also developed after WWII. The Lemeta area, located between Noyes Slough and Creamers Field along College Road, was originally a homestead that John and Bridget O’Connor filed for on August 14, 1923.
College Road, then called College Highway, ran across the O’Connor homestead. The road originated as part of the trail from Fairbanks to Ester. After the Alaska College of Agriculture and School of Mines was established in 1917, the trail from the college into Fairbanks was gradually upgraded.
John O’Connor died before receiving title to the homestead, but on May 5, 1930, Bridget received patent to 103.53 acres. According to a 1985 interview of Bud Meyeres by Gayle Malloy, Meyeres, along with his partners, Warren Taylor and Girdelle Lee, bought the homestead sometime in the early 1940s and developed it into a subdivision. The name Lemeta is a combination of the first two letters of each partner’s last name. (The partnership went on to develop other housing developments such as Westgate and McKinley subdivisions.)
The survey for the Lemeta subdivision is dated Oct. 13, 1948. However, Borough records indicate that numerous residences in the area were built before that date. It is probable that as soon as Meyeres and partners began laying out streets, would-be home-owners lined up to buy lots. Many of the subdivision streets were named after friends and relatives. The street running along Noyes Slough is O’Connor Road, and an intersecting street is named Bridget. A 1949 aerial photo shows the present street layout, with a smattering of development. Lemeta continued to mature during the 1950s and ’60s.
Most of the early homes in Lemeta were small. The gable-roofed log cabin shown in the drawing is typical of early structures. The cabin is located at 929 O’Connor Road, on the bank of Noyes Slough, and was constructed in about 1947. The front part of the cabin, which is the original structure, is only 17 feet by 21 feet. A bathroom and bedroom addition, also of logs, was added to the rear later.
Lemeta has changed gradually. Many homes have expanded — some with so many additions that the original building is lost from sight. Modern houses have replaced others. But Lemeta remains true to its roots, an eclectic mix of rustic cabins, modern homes, and backyards filled with memories of how Fairbanks used to be.
• “Bud Meyeres is interviewed by Gayle Malloy on September 27, 1985.” University of Alaska Oral History Collection
• “Fairbanks, Alaska: A Survey of Progress.” Richard. A Cooley. Alaska Development Board. July, 1954
• Fairbanks North Star Borough property records
• “Historic Districts in the City of Fairbanks.” Janet Matheson. City of Fairbanks. September 1986
• “Lemeta Subdivision: Survey of Bridget O’Connor Homestead.” at City of Fairbanks Engineering Department. Dated Oct. 13, 1948