The first challenge in writing a book about the old roadhouses is just finding out which roadhouses existed and where they were. That’s not as difficult as one might at first imagine, because the histories of the trails, the roads they became, and the highways which followed have in most cases been well-documented. Perhaps the best example is the Iditarod Trail, for which documentation is extensive, and quite a lot of it is available online at the Bureau of Land Management Alaska website. In addition to a historic overview of the trail, the site presents old newspaper articles about the trail, information about the modes of travel such as dogteams, riverboats and airplanes, and a chronology of the trail from pre-European contact through the designation of the Iditarod Trail as a National Historic Trail in 1978. The roadhouses of the Iditarod Trail appear in a 1974 publication by the Office of Statewide Cultural Programs, Division of Parks, Department of Natural Resources, and is made available online by Coleen Mielke at this site.
Some of the old roadhouses have become historic sites, such as Rika’s Landing Roadhouse, also known as the McCarty Roadhouse, located at a historically important crossing of the Tanana River, near mile 274.5 of the Richardson Highway. The roadhouse, a centerpiece of Big Delta State Historical Park, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. A similarly restored historic roadhouse can be found in Delta Junction at the Sullivan Roadhouse, and many others, such as the Talkeetna Roadhouse, the Manley Roadhouse, and the Meier’s Lake Roadhouse in Paxson, are still functioning businesses, and their histories have also been saved.
Old maps, books, interviews, photograph collections and other sources can all be utilized to help locate and identify the roadhouses, and bringing them all together will be the goal of this new book.