Kennecott Mine and Mill Town, Alaska

Kennecott Machine Shop and Mill Building by Matthew Yarbrough, National Park Service

Kennecott Machine Shop and Mill Building by Matthew Yarbrough, National Park Service

The central industrial zone of the Kennecott mill town includes the concentration mill and its associated structures. The 14-story wood frame mill with its many gables and dormers, its location on the slope above the railroad grade, and its many chutes and bins, is the dominant structure at Kennecott. In it worked half of the employees of the camp. The concentrator contains all of its original machinery: two Buchanon jaw crushers, a Stevens-Adamson Apron Feeder, a Symons Crusher, Hancock Jigs, Colorado Impact Screens, Wilfley tables, a Door Thickener, ore bins, and sackers. The concentrator is a superlative reminder of turn-of-the-century mining technology and working conditions in Western raining camps.

The plant, the world’s first commercial ammonia leaching plant, went into operation in 1916. It allowed recovery of high percentage copper ore from ore which had formerly been considered waste rock. The leaching plant was enlarged in 1917 and again in 1918 to accommodate increased production.

Kennecott Mill Building Equipment by Bryan Petrtyl, National Park Service

Kennecott Mill Building Equipment by Bryan Petrtyl, National Park Service

The machine shop, built in 1916, is level with the grade on the west side of the main road. It is north of the leaching plant and south of the power plant. From the machine shop came the fabrication and repair of the everyday mechanical equipment necessary for the mining operation.

The power plant generated the lifeblood energy to power the industrial machinery. Electricity and steam heat were produced here and sent to almost every building in the mining camp. Characterized by four towering black smokestacks, the power plant was constructed in three distinct phases.

The general office completes the center industrial zone. Kennecott was formally established in 1906 with the construction of the log portion of the structure. As the mining operation expanded, four additions completed the present building. The office was the administrative nucleus for the mining operation. The building contains the company vault and still retains everyday working paper documents from the Kennecott operation.

Kennecott Hospital and East Bunkhouses by the National Park Service

Kennecott Hospital and East Bunkhouses by the National Park Service

In order to transport ore from the mines at 6600 feet to the mill at 2200 feet, four tram lines were built to the Bonanza claim. They were constructed in 1909, 1915, 1916, and 1918.

Surrounding the industrial buildings and covering hundreds of acres of land are found the remainder of the mill town buildings. To the north of the concentrator are the railroad yard warehouses, oil storage tanks, and cottages for both railroad and mill staffs. Several of the smaller cottages have been privately restored to their former condition.

To the south of the concentrator and adjacent to the abandoned railroad grade are the camp support buildings: the hospital, company stores, dairy, school, cemetery, and large three-story bunkhouses. To the north are found the homes of the Kennecott Company officials in a large residential area along a street called “Silk Stocking Loop.” A tennis court, a bridge across National Creek, and a walkway lay beyond the loop. At each of the mines stood bunkhouses, mine shops, and tramway terminals.

Kennecott Mill Town, Alaska by Jet Lowe, 1982

Kennecott Mill Town, Alaska by Jet Lowe, 1982

The all wood frame Kennecott company town, every building painted red with white trim, remains a complete unit in an inspiring natural setting. There are no non-contributing structures. All were built from 1907 to 1925 and range in condition from excellent to ruinous.

The name Kennecott is derived from a misspelling of the Kennicott Glacier. The mining camp, with its striking red buildings with white trim, dominated by the wood frame 14-story concentrator, is overwhelmed by the Kennicott Glacier and the Wrangell Mountains, which stand 14,000 feet above the camp. The camp is within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

The Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark is an approximately 7-8 hours drive from Anchorage. From Anchorage, visitors must drive east on the Glenn Highway (Hwy 1), then south on the Richardson Highway (Hwy 4), then east on the Edgerton Highway (Hwy 10), then continue east on the McCarthy Road, a narrow, gravel road that is 59 miles long.

More Information:

Mt. St. Elias, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park by Bryan Petrtyl, National Park Service

Mt. St. Elias, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park by Bryan Petrtyl, National Park Service

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
PO Box 439
Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway
Copper Center, Alaska 99573
907-822-5234

Also See:

Alaska Main Page

Ghost Towns & Mining Camps Across America

Klondike Gold Rush

Kennecott Power Plant by Neal Herbert, National Park Service

Kennecott Power Plant by Neal Herbert, National Park Service

Mining on the American Frontier

From our General Store:

Alaska’s Wrangell-St Elias, America’s Largest National Park DVD

Sources:

Library of Congress

National Historic Register Nomination

National Park Service

1 thought on “Kennecott Mine and Mill Town, Alaska”

  1. Do you have any more info on McCarthy’s backstory? I’ve watched the TV show but not sure how accurate it is. Is the Kennecott Mine the one in the show?

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