Seward, Alaska -
A local family business as old as Seward is closing its doors at the end of September.
Brown & Hawkins, founded in 1904 by T.W. Hawkins shortly after his arrival with the Ballaine party on the Santa Ana in 1903, has passed through four generations of family including Hugh Darling and his wife Iris, the present owners. According to the Seward Historic Preservation Commission, the enterprise is the oldest continuously operated business in Seward, a legacy that will end this fall.
Iris and Hugh say it’s time to see what the outside world looks like after having been tied closely to the operation of the clothing, gift and candy emporium that in 1956 became known as the Brown & Hawkins Mall.
In the years since 1989 ... the Darlings have only been away from Seward a handful of times. As Hugh says, “When you own three 100-year-old buildings you don’t have much spare time.”
... Those roots go back to the founding partners, Hawkins and Charles Brown, who played a central role in commerce throughout Southcentral Alaska. They made a big splash in 1912, establishing a store and an assayer’s office on a barge anchored in Ship Creek near the intersection of the Knik and Turnagain arms of Cook Inlet. Because of the presence of that trading post on the SS Bertha, the term “anchorage” was popularized as a destination to the extent that it became the name of Alaska’s biggest city.
The two businessmen first teamed up during the Nome gold rush of 1898 and they initially set up a Valdez-based business in 1900. However, the federal preference for the railroad route pioneered by Seward’s Alaska Central Railroad over the competing venture in Valdez saw the partners shift their attention to Resurrection Bay after a few years.
Due to Seward’s increasing prominence and heavy use of the Iditarod Trail, Brown and Hawkins had a good part of the wealth produced during the gold rush days of Alaska pass through it’s mercantile banking operation. The large Mosler vault, now used as an office, secured shipments of gold bullion worth up to at least $1 million at a single time from mining in Nome, Iditarod, Hope and elsewhere on the Kenai Peninsula.
This saddens me; we've shopped at that store on many an occasion.
I've said it before, but "the old days", "days of the pioneers" and so on are ancient history in many parts of the U.S. ... but here in Alaska, the many of their pioneers (or at least their children) are still around.