Juneau, You Know?

According to my WordPress statistics, this will be my 50th article for this blog. To celebrate this achievement, I thought I would share some trivia about America’s 49th state, just to be quirky and offbeat.

Alaska’s capital city is Juneau. With a population slightly above 32,000, the capital is more of a small town than a major city. Juneau is intriguing, enchanting and, like the photographer authoring this blog article, slightly quirky and offbeat as well, but in a way that captivates interest and curiosity, not suspicion or sideways glances (like that foolish emoticon on the left margin, trying to dampen the mood).

Okay. Time for the trivia tidbits…Ready?

Did you know that, right now — right at this moment — if you wanted to drive your car on an extended scenic route or hop aboard a passenger train to reach Juneau as your final destination, you would fail miserably? You couldn’t do it! Why? That’s because Juneau is one of two American state capitals that is impossible to reach by car or train. No roads or railroads will take you to Juneau. No, Sir. No, Ma’am. Part of the reason is its physical location. Given the colossal, staggering mountains and glaciers that surround the Alaskan capital, many of which border the province of British Columbia in Canada, you can only get there by boat or airplane. (I imagine very adventurous individuals have attempted the unconventional swim up there, but you get my point).

Juneau is a very atypical American capital city. No roads exist that connect it to the rest of Alaska — or even to the rest of the North American continent. Juneau is virtually isolated.

As previously mentioned, Juneau is one of two American capitals which you cannot travel to by automobile or airplane. The other capital city you cannot drive to is Honolulu, Hawaii. (Wouldn’t that be something, though? A bridge from San Francisco or Los Angeles to Honolulu? Wow!).

Lastly, in order to file this article under my new “TIA Urban Etymology” category (check it out frequently!), here’s something a lot of Alaskans and Americans, in general, probably didn’t know: Juneau (which is a French name) was named after Joseph Juneau, a miner. (His friends called him “Joe”).

Towards the conclusion of the 19th century, there was a meeting among the miners in the region to decide whose name the town along the Gastineau Channel would bear. Would it be Joe Juneau or his mining partner, Richard Harris? (I was going to write “Partner in Mines”, but that sounds terribly corny, doesn’t it?).

City of Juneau

Up until that meeting in December 1881, the town was named after Harris and was called Harrisburg (a name which was already claimed by another capital city — in Pennsylvania — so it wouldn’t have been too original). As it would turn out, the miners’ majority voted in favor of Juneau instead of Harrisburg. Joe Juneau himself, by the way, was born and raised in the province of Quebec. Alas, Canadians can take pride that an American state capital was actually named after one of their own citizens!

Now you know a little bit more about Juneau, you know?

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