July 24 – There were still two museums left to see in Haines and since we were still recovering from our day of outdoor adventure we were ready for some museum time. Our first stop was the American Bald Eagle Foundation’s museum. Not really a museum it featured a large display with over 100 animals displayed in a ‘natural’ setting. While they had many stuffed bald eagles, there really wasn’t any information on them. The foundation was a major force in having a bald eagle refuge of 48,000 acres created near Haines. Not terribly impressed with the eagle museum, we hoped for better results at our next museum which featured 1,200 hammers (talk about a hobby gone out of control!) Yes, this was the hammer museum, featuring just about every kind of hammer you can imagine, all crammed into a little building. The owner’s wife gave a brief tour, explaining the uses of some of the stranger hammers. Among the more interesting hammers were the double claw (easier to pull nails out with), the poster tackers (extra long handle to put ads up high), and the around the corner hammer. There was also a triple claw hammer although in the patent application the manufacturer describes the extra claws as decorative and pleasing to the eye. The collection also included blacksmith’s hammers, railroad hammers, crate opening hammers and what is presumed to be an over 800 year old local Indian hammer head.
Having run out of museums to visit, we drove over to a place that probably should be a museum of some kind – Fort William H. Seward. The army had built this fort around 1903 and it was used until 1947 when it was sold off as surplus. Unlike a traditional fort, there were no big walls, guard towers or lines of machine guns. It was hoped that the mere presence of a fort would keep the Canadians from encroaching on the as yet undetermined border between the U.S. and Canada. The fort sat on 400 acres and looked like its own little town on a hill with a big sloping parade ground in the middle. Officers lived in large homes above the parade grounds while the enlisted men lived in one of two giant barracks buildings. There were also numerous support buildings. When the fort was sold off, five World War II veterans bought it sight unseen and tried to create a planned community. While they never realized their dream, they did manage to preserve the fort for some time. Over the years the buildings were sold off as residences and in 1970 the fort was merged into the city of Haines and received national historic site designation.
On the grounds of the fort is the Alaskan Indian Arts center, a workshop where native craftsmen practice their crafts and pass them on to new generations. The fort was also the home to the Chilkat Dancers, a group that performed native dances for visitors for over 40 years. The group disbanded several years ago, but a new group started by one of its original members has sprung up in its place. While the original Chilkat Dancers told their stories in dance, this new group uses a story telling format with a narrator, spoken parts, and background music. The costumes were very nice and the overall presentation was done quite well with very limited resources.
Our final stop for the day was Dalton City, just a half mile from Haines. Not really a city at all, it’s actually the fairgrounds for the South East Alaska State Fair and the ‘city’ is a recreated frontier town street with false front buildings that house vendors during the fair. While it is not occupied year ‘round it does have one very important tenant – the Haines Brewing Company. The owner refers to it as the smallest production brewery in the country. They don’t have bottling equipment, instead you buy a re-sealable bottle and then they fill it with the brew of your choice. Whenever you want more, you just bring the bottle back and have it refilled. We sampled the four brews that they had (the selection is always changing) and decided to take home some of their spruce tip beer (and it’s high in vitamin C!)