JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A group that wants to save a neglected site where the Alaska territorial flag was designed, sewn and first flown sued Wednesday, seeking to block the city of Seward from demolishing the Jesse Lee Home.
The group, Friends of Jesse Lee Home, contends the property is theirs and say the city has misrepresented the home’s condition and estimated renovation costs and interfered with work efforts.
Will Earnhart, an attorney in private practice who previously represented the city, by email said that to his knowledge, ownership had reverted to the city because conditions in the deed were not met. City manager Scott Meszaros declined comment Wednesday.
The Seward City Council in July voted to raze remaining buildings at the property, a one-time Methodist-run facility where orphans and other displaced children from Alaska Native villages were sent, many after the flu epidemic of a century ago.
Benny Benson, the home’s most famous resident, is believed to be the only Indigenous person to design a state flag. He won a territory-wide contest in 1927 with his flag design. The design became the Alaska state flag following statehood in 1959.