Situated on the west of Prince William Sound, the town of Whittier has a population of 288 and almost everyone here lives under the same roof! Apart from the port, there is a long one-way tunnel road that serves as the ONLY other way one can wish to reach Whittier. The tunnel closes at 10:30pm every night and it is a common sight to find people sleeping in their cars in wait for it to open again the next morning.
A Little History
The town was initially a military supply camp during World War II and remained active until 1960. It was only in 1969, that the town of Whittier was adapted. The military base left the town with two major constructions – the Buckner Building and the Begich Towers – one was abandoned and the other went on to house almost the entire town population.
Reaching Whittier Through The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
About 4km long, this tunnel is one of the two ways of reaching Whittier. It does not work round the clock and entertains only one-way traffic. Therefore, the tunnel has a system to facilitate travel from and to Whittier. The tunnel alternates in its route every hour and opens once a year for the pedestrians.
Once the tunnel is crossed, and one has reached Whittier, the next striking landmark is the Begich Tower – the building that is for the people and by the people (quite literally).
The Begich Tower – The Building That Houses The Population
“…some folks have not stepped outside BTI for weeks, months and maybe even years.”
Why would they even have to, when a building functions more like a town? The Begich Tower has 14 floors and has everything from a grocery shop, clinic, church, school and even the government administration office. It also has a police station and a post office, and everything is probably just separated by a hallway.
The tower gives a feeling of belongingness and safety, with almost every individual knowing every other person in the building, and yet not one resembles our colony aunties. It is surprising to note that the building in which the people of Whittier live, serves as their livelihood too. People of the town run the grocery shops, the town school, ensure the functioning of the tunnel, and a lot of them work in the government departments.
The closed doors of the tower are well supplemented by the beautiful panoramic surrounding. It might seem a little suffocating to having a life restricted within a building, but the people of Whittier think otherwise. For them, The Begich Tower liberates them from their past. Each resident of the town has been through a journey that has landed them in Whittier. The town welcomes tourists who can either opt to stay in Begich Tower or take up accommodation in nearby hotels.
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