The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Brown & Hawkins building unveils commemorative markers during ceremony


In a community loaded with history, The City of Seward got a new piece of hardware to hang its hat on this past Thursday.

Better make that two pieces.

A representative of the Alaska Historical Society joined Hugh and Iris Darling and other local dignitaries in unveiling a pair of special markers at the historic Brown & Hawkins building in downtown Seward on Thursday morning. Presented at the ceremony were markers acknowledging the building as an official property on the National Register of Historic Places and the City of Seward Historic Preservation Commission.

The unveiling of the plaques near the front entrance to the oldest business in Seward is the beginning of what should be even more markers displaying the community's history, said Iris Darling, who owns the Hawkins & Brown building with her husband.

"The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places for a while but we've never had a plaque showing that. Jo Antonson wanted to make sure it got one so she got this going. It is a real honor that entire community can take pride in. It is bringing our history back to the forefront. There is a lot of history here and now we are getting it labeled and people will be able to see and read about. It will be nice to have them (the markers) and hopefully we can get some more at other places in the community."

Antonson serves as the executive director of the the Alaska Historical Society.

The Brown & Hawkins building was constructed at the turn of the century by Hugh Darling's grandfather, T.W. Hawkins. A prospector who missed out on the gold rush to Nome, Hawkins was among a group who traveled by boat from Valdez to help found a railroad town head of Resurrection Bay that later became Seward. In Valdez, Hawkins met and befriended Charles E. Brown, a Canadian banker. The two later founded the Brown & Hawkins store to serve the Alaska Central Railroad, which was building a station on the eastern shores of the Kenai River. They later branched out into the banking industry.

The Brown & Hawkins building has seen its share of famous visitors through the years, including two presidents. Warren G. Harding visited the site during his trip to Alaska. His band played from the balcony on the second story. More recently, President Barak Obama visited the candy store during his trip to Alaska. Former Secretary of State – and current presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton also visited the site in recent years, as did former presidential candidate John McCain.

"We're very proud of the markers and proud that people will be able to read and know the historical aspects of the building," said Darling. "There are so many historic things in this community that people should know about. Hopefully, this is the start toward that."

The Brown & Hawkins building first opened in 1903, nine years before the City of Seward was incorporated.

Seward is home to several properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also on the list are the Jesse Lee Home, the Ballaine House, the Lowell Creek Diversion Tunnell, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, the Seward train depot, the U.S. cable office, the Swetman house and the Van Gilder home.


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