Photographer Jean Sherrard updates a Gold Rush photo of an intersection that now lures thousands of cruise-ship passengers panning for souvenirs.
THROUGH OUR 34 years of this weekly feature, the farthest we have strayed from Seattle’s Pioneer Square and/or the Pacific NW offices has been Spokane. But for this story, we have gone to Juneau, Alaska’s capital. Jean Sherrard, the “Now” photographer for nearly a decade, found it exhilarating. Here’s Jean:
“[Sherrard’s wife] Karen and I flew up to Juneau, a two-hour flight, on MLK weekend to visit our friends Robin Walz and Carol Prentice. We highly recommend Juneau in winter. It’s a small town of 30,000 people, nestled in the sea-level valley between impassible mountains. During the chilly offseason, the landscape is gorgeous and tourist-free. On Sunday morning, we headed downtown to take this repeat of Frank La Roche’s Gold Rush Seward Street. Robin, Carol, Karen and some friendly locals crossed the street to enliven the photo, and then we adjourned to a table in the locally owned Heritage Coffee Company on the left — not too long ago a McDonald’s franchise.”
The only snow we can find in Jean’s January photo is high above where Seward Street is stopped at the steep foot of Mount Juneau. The snow is mostly hidden in the forest. In La Roche’s “then,” photographed sometime in the late 1890s, the corner for Jean’s coffee retreat on the left is occupied in part by The New York Store, where any eager argonaut heading for the gold fields was assured by a mural-sized sign that he could get “cheap … the best men’s heavy clothing, underwear, rubber boots, etc.”
Other outfitters, tobacco stores, bars, chop and oyster houses, and cheap lodgings covered most of the commerce on Seward Street during the Gold Rush. Now jewelers, galleries and souvenir shops waiting on what Robin Walz figures are “up to 15,000 passengers and crew who are set ashore from four to five cruise ships every day from April into October.” Alaskan Heritage is an alternative to pricey knickknacks on Seward Street.
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The blue and pink banner hanging from the corner light standard on the right lists some of the attractions north of here at Front Street on Seward: “Governor’s House, Juneau City Museum, State Capital (and) St. Nicholas Church.”