Fire Destroys One of Alaska’s Last Roadhouses

May 25, 2012

The owner of a historic roadhouse that was destroyed in a weekend fire suspects bad wiring was to blame and says the lodge’s oiled logs fueled the flames.

The Copper Center Lodge, located off the Old Richardson Highway in Copper Center, burned early Sunday. It was on the National Register of Historic Places.

Owner Tom Huddleston told the Anchorage Daily News the building is a total loss.

“It was absolutely one of the last of its kind,” he said. “They called it the jewel of the roadhouses.”

Huddleston said a maintenance worker living on site alerted him to the flames at about 3 a.m.

Firefighters from the Glenn-Rich Fire and Rescue, which serves the Copper Basin area, tried to battle the flames.

“We just couldn’t get enough water on it,” Huddleston said. The building was a “tinder box,” he said, built of oil-soaked logs.

The original roadhouse on the site was built in 1896 and served gold miners. Huddleston says it was rebuilt after a 1928 fire. Huddleston’s family had operated the lodge since 1948.

The structure that burned Sunday included a dining room that dates back to the original 1896 construction. But firefighters were able to save outbuildings, including a museum.

The lodge has played a central role in the Copper River Valley community for decades, Huddleston said.

Huddleston and his wife, Kimberly, bought the lodge in 2002.

In recent years, the roadhouse thrived even as others shut down by hosting tourists, construction crews, National Park Service employees and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. workers year-round, Huddleston said. The lodge also became a center for community events and dinners, he said.

“It doesn’t really belong to us,” he said. “It belongs to the community. Lots of people are pretty shaken up.”

A sourdough starter used to make locally beloved pancakes was destroyed, but neighbors had some to spare.

“The pancakes will be coming back,” Huddleston said.

The couple plans to rebuild the lodge.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.