Originally published in Mt. View
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.