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Coal WasheryThe remains of the 1922 coal washery is the most visible exhibit at the park. Coal was crushed by another machine and conveyed by belt to this washer where three plungers agitated water much like today’s family washing machine to wash 25 tons of coal an hour. Agitation forced the coal to float to the surface while the rock fell to the bottom. A large elevator hauled the washed coal to the conveyor belt which carried it to the dryer and a small elevator carried the reject rock from the washer.

Lucas HouseLucas House-built in 1917, served as a residence for coal miners at the Chickaloon Coal Mine. Sometime after abandonment of the mines, it . It was moved to Palmer where it n the mine closed and became the Lucas home in 1943. Donated by the Lucas family in 1989, the first floor has since been renovated to accommodate AHS records in addition to serving as a meeting room for the board. It was donated to the park in1989. The first floor has been renovated and is open to the public during park summer events. The building houses the AHS records and is the meeting place of the AHS Board The house is open to the public during park events.

Mary Giest HouseMary Geist House- built as an O’Neill guest house in the 1960’s, it was moved in 1990 to house the Old Timer’s Hall of Fame-honoring the residents of Sutton who were involved with the coal mining industry and development of Sutton. It houses plaques of the inductees and a collection of fossils and petrified wood found in the mining area.

 



Roberts/O’Neill House-a log residence built in1949 is now a Visitor Center and a private residence. The Visitor Center has information of activities in the area and a small historic display of earlier life in Sutton.





Powder Magazine- built in 1921 this structure housed explosives for coal mining andthe Glenn Highway construction





Chickaloon BunkhouseHitchcock Cabin-to be renovated in 2016, this building will house Athabascan Dene’ cultural displays and will be a meeting place for cultural workshops.                                   Chickaloon Bunkhouse-built in 1918 as a bunkhouse for the Chickaloon Mine and moved to the park in 1990, it houses the major park collection of artifacts and photographs.


Sutton Post Office-built in 1948, this small building was Sutton’s first post office. Items from that time are found inside.
Grace Boulter replaced Mike as the Sutton postmaster in 1951. It started as part time employment for which she received 56 cents a day. Grace remembers this old building: “The place was so small around Christmas time; I would have to take a couple bags of parcel post and lock them in my car at night, because there was not enough room to leave it in the post office.” In those days, mail was delivered by train; it was thrown from a railroad car as the train passed the office on its way to Jonesville Mine.

Grace Boulter
When the Eska Post Office finally closed in 1966, Rivera Hiber came from there and replaced Grace as postmaster of Sutton. When Rivera retired in 1975, she was replaced by Bobby Johnson. Bobby was postmaster when the post office moved to its present location at Mile 62 on the Glenn Highway in 1976. Bobby left the postal service in 1979 and was replaced by Catherine Wansor. Catherine continued to serve as postmaster until her retirement in 1984. Merle Johnson replaced Catherine until his retirement in 2005



Athabascan Winter Lodge Exhibit-built in 2005, this building is a collaboration of AHS and Chickaloon Native Village. It illustrates a traditional native house design, commonly used prior to Russian and Euro-American contact. to present a native structure in the park that may have existed before the arrival of foreigners. It holds examples of local medicinal plants, hides from local furbearing animals, that were used, donated items from Katie Wade, bunks, and sweat lodge, and a mock central fire pit. A recorded Athabascan Dene’ story, singing and drumming can be heard within the walls. (The hidessled, lamp and plants were donated by the lLate Native Dene Elder, Kathryn “Katie” Wade).


Restrooms-built in 2013, the tidy restrooms function only during park hours.while the park is open.


Playground FunThe Alpine -Playground-built by the Community in 2014, it is a a BIG draw for families of young children with swings, climbing frames, slides, sand box, musical toys and many beautiful murals



Exercise Pavillion built in 2011, this shelter contains equipment for young adults and adults to exercise their core muscles.


History of Coal Mining in Matanuska Valley

coal mine carsThe earliest Euro-American explorations for coal in Alaska were conducted by the Russians before Alaska was sold to the United States in 1867. After 1867, American scientific exploratory groups that were sent north to Alaska by Congress indicated in their reports that coal was present.

In 1894, the Indians gave prospectors and traders their earliest knowledge of the occurrence of coal in the Matanuska Valley. In 1898 an exploratory group from the War Department commanded by Captain E.F. Glenn, and including geologist W.C. Mendenhall was sent to the region and spent the summer exploring the Matanuska drainage. They discovered coal of “very fair, steam-producing quality” in sediments of the Matanuska. The expedition guide, Mr. Hicks reported local up the Chickaloon River and a bed six feet thick up Coal Creek. Further exploration was recommended to determine the value of these beds. Having been given the go-ahead to complete the railroad, the AEC set up their main camp at Ship Creek. Two thousand people showed up to work and their camp became a town, later to be called Anchorage. From Ship Creek, the workers began laying tracks to the coal fields. The tracks reached Chickaloon by October of 1917. Narrow gauge spurs were built to link each of the mines with the main railroad. In January 1918, the junction at the Eska Spur and the main branch was renamed Sutton after a local homesteader.

The Eska Mine was purchased by the AEC in order to supply the railroad with coal to power the locomotives and for further construction of the rail line. Eska was mined extensively between 1917 and 1918 for these purposes. Meanwhile, little coal was being mined at Chickaloon; however, shaft drilling and tunneling was taking place there.

The Navy’s interest in using Matanuska Coal was rekindled during WWI. In 1920, the Navy received a one million dollar appropriation from Congress for the purpose of coal mining development at Chickaloon. The money was put toward developing the town, sinking more mining shafts, hiring more workers, and building the massive coal washery at Sutton. Although the coal had been determined to be of high quality, it had to be washed to remove the impurities before it could be used. Thus, nearly half of the million dollar appropriation was used for the construction of the coal washery which was completed in 1922.