Back to the roots: A short history of Mountain View

by Victoria Petersen

Michael Dougherty and his family first moved to Mountain View in 1950, when he was only three years old and the city of Anchorage had only two paved streets, one stoplight on Fourth Avenue and a brand new high school: Anchorage High School.

“We lived in a small mobile home park in Mountain View,” Dougherty said. “Years later, my wife’s sister bought a house there, and in her backyard was the concrete pad from one of the mobile home sites.”

An appropriate name, Mountain View offers views of the Chugach Mountains. The name was first recorded being used by the Army Map Service in 1941. Homesteaders and construction workers for Elmendorf Air Force Base were the residents of Mountain View in the 1940s.

Consisting of mostly cabins and small houses, the neighborhood was rezoned to allow the construction of multi-family housing in 1965.

The Good Friday Earthquake

As the state population and infrastructure grew rapidly in the 50s and 60s, the Good Friday earthquake brought a brief halt to the development.

When he was 13, Larry Cline’s family home suffered little damage during the 9.2 magnitude earthquake that lasted for nearly five minutes. However, just a block away at a playground behind Mountain View Elementary, the earthquake left a huge crack in the asphalt, Cline said.

“School was out, being Good Friday, and I was home watching TV… Things just started going crazy. The ground was rocking and there was a low roar the whole time. I moved to stand at the front door and my mom stepped outside. She immediately fell on her butt in the snow,” Cline said. “I stayed in the doorway and braced myself.”

Cline said he watched his family’s ‘56 Chevrolet four-door station wagon rocking back and forth until all four wheels were off the ground at the same time.

“It didn’t last but a few minutes, as I recall, but I remember wondering if it was going to go on forever,” Cline said.

From pigs to lions, Mountain View was a wild place

Born and raised on Bragaw Street, Paula Shaw Vincent lived across from what is now the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School in an area that used to be an 80-acre pig farm. The farm was run in Mountain View from 1942 to 1951 by John Vanover, who homesteaded in the area in 1940.

For decades two domesticated lions, Timbo and Princess, also called Mountain View home. They lived in modified trucking trailers that allowed the cats access to views of Mountain View Drive. The trailers were placed between Leon and Lois Brown’s A&W Drive-in and their electric business, Brown’s Electric. Leon — whose late brother George owned the popular Anchorage eatery, The Lucky Wishbone — helped take care of the lions from the late 50s until the late 70s. The lions were then mounted and put on display in Brown’s Electric. After the electric business moved buildings, Leon donated the lions to the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature. There the lions were put on display until moved to storage. The current whereabouts of the lions are unknown. The Alaska Museum could not confirm if the lions were on site.

A diverse history

Today, Mountain View is America’s most diverse neighborhood, according to U.S. Census data research conducted by University of Alaska Anchorage professor Chad Farrell in 2013. The majority of Mountain View’s diverse population came in the late 90s and early 2000s, but since the beginning it was a place for people from all walks of life.

“It was a very diverse neighborhood even back then. Mostly black, white and Native though. Not quite the mix it has now. [There was also] lots of military [people],” said Terri Floyd, who lived in Mountain View from 1956 to 1974. “I think Anchorage as a whole changed a lot with the pipeline. Small neighborhood stores went away, larger grocery stores and malls opening changed the face of Anchorage.”

The neighborhood has seen its fair share of changes since it was annexed to Anchorage in 1954.

Georgiana Criswell Gooch lived in the basement of her church located at 403 N. Hoyt St. At the age of 17, she left home to take a job at Sears in 1970. During this time Gooch lived in a small house across the street from her church.

“It was like a nice urban area where you could see the mountains really well. It was a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, kind of like a small town,” Gooch said.

Gooch left Alaska in 1974 and came back in 2006. Her brother, who lived in Anchorage at the time, told her to stay away from the neighborhood they once called home.

“I was shocked at how small the buildings seemed and how worn down everything had become. The post office was gone. The sports store wasn’t the nice place I recall,” Gooch said. “My brother… got really upset with me when he found out I had driven to Mountain View to look at the old neighborhood. He told me, ‘Don’t ever go back there again. If you must, take someone with a gun. Better yet, just stay away.’ I couldn’t have been more surprised.”

For some, Mountain View has changed for the worse. For others, it hasn’t changed at all.

“Mountain View is not the scary place people think it is,” said Tisha Smith, a current neighborhood resident.

Smith, who grew up in south Mountain View in the 1970s, bought her childhood home from her mother a few years ago. When it was built in 1963, Smith said, her home was part of a pretty nice and new neighborhood, and that pocket of Mountain View has hardly changed at all.


This story appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Mountain View Post magazine: Find copies — including more stories, photos and recipes from Mountain View — at the Mountain View Neighborhood Library and select local businesses.

Categories: News

10 replies »

  1. I loved growing up in Mt. View in the 80’s and 90’s, but when I can back from college, things changed for the worse. I hope to some day come back. I appreciate this publication shining light on the positives that the newspaper may miss.

    • Mountain View and Fair view are two of the worst areas of Anchorage since the early 80’s. Take this from someone who lived in Anchorage during that time.

  2. Victoria, thank you for providing the information about the Pig Farm. The farm was a frequent topic of my mother and father as I was growing up in 1950’s. Mt. View went from homesteads, to a few homes, to lots of single family homes to what it is now. I hope you can provide further stories about the neighborhood’s history.

  3. Looking for the month in 1974 when Mt. View Sports Center burned. It was a big story back then. One person narrowed it down to summer.

  4. Anyone go to Willawaw on Bragaw in the 60’s? How about the large gravel pit behind it? Yes, I am a South Mtn View’r.. Clark in the 70’s.. Schneider, Hasbrook, Graves, Mr Kay, Peterson, McCahill (ugh).. It was a wonderful era, and a nice place to be a kid.. Back when you had to get out, and/or create things to do.. The Twenty-Five cent hotdogs & wonderful fries at A&W. A few more things: Car time-trials at Clark, Pay ‘N Save, Wards, 76 station on corner across from Brewsters (those pants might fit my neighbor!).. Alaska Speedway, Mt. View Auto, B&J, buying crap at the Merrill Landfill, etc……..

    I’m not a social media junkie, and feel the internet has caused more issues than anyone wants to admit. But if anyone reads this and cares to comment about the good times in Alaska, it will be fun sharing past times.

  5. I grew up in Mt. View in the early 50s. A wonderful place to live. Dirt streets, well water and fuel oil heaters. In ‘56 I watched Mt. View Elementary school burn down from my living room window. I was starting first grade and had to catch bus no. 2 to Lake Otis School until it was rebuilt. 1964 was the earthquake, I remember I was playing chess with a friend when it started. I could barely stand up and trees were whipping from site to side striking the ground on both sides. Vehicles were bouncing crazily and power transformers were being ripped from their mounts on utility poles. The worst were the many strong aftershocks sending fear through us each time. I left to live in Hawaii on Halloween night 1966. Returned in 1976 to my old home. The neighborhood had changed dramatically. I realized I would never be able to come back home. I still visit Alaska every year for fishing and camping. I worked for the FAA 2001-2007 mostly in the Aleutians.


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