History

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson approved the route of the Alaska Railroad and named Ship Creek Landing (current site of Anchorage) as a construction base. Almost overnight more than 2000 workers traveled to Alaska in search of work on the new federal project. A town quickly formed on the banks of Ship Creek and was, for a time, called “Tent City.” As many of these workers came to Alaska bringing families, it was soon evident that there was a desperate need for a school. It is said that when Jane Mears approached her husband, Lt. Col. Fredrick Mears of the Alaska Engineering Commission, and asked him to build a school, his reply was, “I’m busy building a railroad; if you want a school you’ll have to build it yourself.”

And that’s just what she did! On September 16, 1915, she and other women of the town organized The Anchorage Woman’s Club, now a part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs established in 1890. Their primary goal in forming the club was to build a school. With left over material from the railroad, the women spearheaded the project and organized the construction of the first schoolhouse in Anchorage. However, the new town of Anchorage was growing so quickly that this school was used just a short time before it was outgrown anda new schoo wasl built. The building then began to serve as a meeting place for community activities and was called Pioneer Hall.

After the 1964 earth quake, the building was slated for demolition. Having had money set aside since 1920 for the building of a club house, the Anchorage Woman’s Club decided to use this money to move the schoolhouse to its current location. The building was set on its new foundation in 1965. Although it’s owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, the Pioneer Schoolhouse has been leased and managed by the Anchorage Woman’s Club since then. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December, 1980.