Slaterville: from hayfields to housing developments
The development of the Slaterville area, on the north side of the Chena River across from downtown Fairbanks, started soon after the city was established. It is a residential area now but began as one of the farms that sprouted up around the city’s edge.
Jorgine Anderson, who moved to Fairbanks from the Klondike, was one of the first people to farm in the area. She staked an 87-acre homestead that encompassed most of the land between Illinois Street to the west, Noyes Slough to the east and north, and the Chena River to the south — from the mouth of Noyes Slough to the mouth of Garden Island Slough.
She and her husband, Eric, operated a truck garden from their homestead for many years, supplying fresh produce to Fairbanks residents. When Jorgine died in 1917 her homestead application lapsed. Charles Slater, who had been living in Fairbanks since 1905, picked up the homestead and expanded the Andersons’ operation. Photographs in the University of Alaska archives show his property from the Chena River to the far side of Noyes Slough (near present-day College Road), cleared of trees and filled with fields of hay and other crops.
As the population of Fairbanks grew, houses started encroaching into agricultural areas near town, and the truck gardeners and farmers on the periphery of town ceased operations entirely or fled to more distant locations. When construction of what would become Ladd Field just east of Fairbanks began in 1939, pressure for additional housing increased significantly.
Charles Slater, who received a patent to his homestead in the 1920s and had been farming his land for more than 20 years, evidently regarded 1939 as an excellent time to get out of agriculture. He hired Lee Linck, who had grown up in Fairbanks, to subdivide the property.
Slater began by subdividing his land nearest the Chena River first and then worked his way north. According to Terrence Cole’s report, Historic Resources of the Minnie Street Corridor, the first section of the subdivision, platted in the summer of 1939, consisted of 16 lots between Slater and Well streets. The section to the north of that, which included Minnie Street, was surveyed in fall 1939, and the section that included Charles Street, one block north of Minnie, was platted in 1940.
Many of Slaterville’s streets are named after Slater’s relatives. Minnie Street was christened in honor of his first wife. (Minnie is buried in Birch Hill Cemetery. Her grave is easily visible on the lower slope, enclosed by a white picket fence.) Slater’s daughter, Betty, and second wife, Clara, were also honored with streets named after them.
Earl and Pat Cook were one of the first couples to build in the new subdivision. In a 1985 Daily News-Miner article, the Cooks said friends were dismayed by their plans and asked why they were “moving so far out of town.”
Terrence Cole’s report states that the Cooks purchased a lot at the corner of Well and Betty Street (238 Well Street) in 1939 for $500, and built a small 1 1/2 story wood-frame cottage (shown in the drawing) with a gabled roof. The house cost $8,100. They later added a large flat-roofed addition to the east which included a garage accessible from the rear of the house, and a dining room to the west.
Slaterville grew rapidly. According to the 1950 U.S. Census, with a population of 611 people, Slaterville was the largest of the residential areas mushrooming around Fairbanks. It was annexed into the city of Fairbanks in 1959. Because of the barrier formed by Noyes Slough, it has retained much of its residential charm.
• Albert Johnson Photo Collection, UAF Archives
• Fairbanks, a pictorial history. Claus-M. Naske & Ludwig J. Rowinski. Donning Company. 1981
• Fairbanks North Star Borough property records
• Historic Resources of the Minnie Street Corridor. Terrence Cole. Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. 1989
• U.S. Census for 1950