Originally published on Knik.co
The windmill standing in the old Chilkoot Charlie’s parking lot has created a life for itself as an Anchorage landmark and a symbol of Spenardian culture.
Spenard started on the outskirts of the original tent city, as the playground for railroad workers. Later on Spenard would entertain the booming population of oil workers at the “World Famous Chilkoot Charlie’s, ” nicknamed Koot’s.
Today Spenard is Anchorage’s hipsterdom. Full of some of the best restaurants in town, funky bars, and a plethora of boutiques; Spenard thrives on its local culture and businesses. It’s one of the few areas in Anchorage where you can easily park your car and walk to go see a movie, do some shopping, and get an amazing meal finished off with some craft beer or cocktails. Spenard attracts artists, outdoor types, foodies, and fashionistas to the historic and diverse road.
One of the most distinct features of the Spenard area is the old ornamental windmill looming over the Koot’s parking lot. The windmill stands tall and is decorated with lights of green, red and white. Many remember it always being there, at Koot’s, but its history extends beyond the parking lot of the old bar.
Anchorage businessman Byron Gillam, who owned a liquor store on East Fireweed Lane, was traveling in Southern California and discovered a windmill at a business there. It was made from a kit that Gillam soon bought and installed in front of his liquor store here in Anchorage, in the early 1960s.
The windmill lived on East Fireweed lane for many years, with different owners as years passed. By the 1970s the windmill was in the hands of a local character known as “Mafia Mike.” Mafia Mike told Mike Gordon, owner of Chilkoot Charlie’s at the time, that he would donate the windmill to him if he paid to have it moved to his parking lot and would forever engrave Mafia Mike’s name in history with a dedication plaque placed on the windmill. The deed was done and the windmill was installed in the Koot’s parking lot in the early 1980s. The plaque is now missing, but the windmill is here to stay.
When the windmill was first installed in the Koot’s parking lot a celebration occurred and a time capsule was placed underneath the windmill. The community gathered to fill a 55 gallon time capsule with trinkets and other memorabilia. The time capsule still sits under the windmill with no plans on to when it will be unearthed.
The windmill currently stands above the Spenard Farmers Market every summer as well as the Spenard Food Truck Carnival. These events use the windmill as a landmark to let locals know where the events are, “under the windmill.” Both events stem from local initiative and thrive on the quirky culture of the area.
The Spenard Farmers Market begins in mid-May and takes place on Saturday from 9am to 2pm. The Spenard Food Truck Carnival is every Thursday from 11 am to 2 pm.