All of the residents of Whittier, Alaska live under one roof at the Begich Tower. The 218 residents live in an extremely isolated region of Alaska at the entrance of Prince William Sound where approximately 250 inches of snow falls annually. Whittier is surrounded entirely by mountains, and the sea and stretches for just two-and-a-half miles.
The tunnel, which offers access into the Alaska town where all residents live in the multi-story Begich Tower together, rotates direction every half hour and closes at 11 p.m. sharp – only to open once again at 5:30 a.m. the next day. The Begich Tower, a 14-story building, was created by the United States Army in 1953 by the U.S. Army but was turned over to public ownership when the military pulled out of the area just a few years later. The structure was originally named the Hodge Building and included a separate structure deemed the Buckner Building and eight other structures. The first and fourteenth floors of the Begich Tower are now zoned for commercial use.
The Begich Tower in Whittier boasts a post office, an indoor playground, laundromat, two convenience stores, police station, a school, a bed and breakfast, and even a rooftop inflatable pool for church baptisms.
Native Alaskan and filmmaker Mary Katzke has become intrigued by the unique town of Whittier and life inside Begich Tower. “This community has always been of interest due to its primary place of residence being one tower – the Begich Tower,” Katzke said. “There is so much geographic isolation yet continual contact via this living set up. The residents work for the port, as boat mechanics, or in the city or occasionally drive out to work outside the community.”
Only a few “rebels” have opted to live outside of the Whittier Begich Tower. One man the filmmaker spoke with said he decided to try life living in his “immobile” motor home. In the past, Whittier has been considered a “subject of interest” for movie studies, but more recent requests for permission to film and speak with residents have centered around the television reality show genre.
While Whittier is a relatively quiet place during the long winter months, the remote Alaska town comes alive during the summer tourist season. During a typical year, about 900,000 visitors pass through Whittier during cruise ship excursions. During the summer months the small town garners up to 22 hours of light each day.
What do you think life would be like living with your entire town under one roof?
[Image via: Wikipedia]