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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Spring 2004 arrow Alaska: Partial Demolition of Site Summit, Chugach Mountains, Anchorage
Alaska: Partial Demolition of Site Summit, Chugach Mountains, Anchorage

Agency: U.S. Army
In the harsh climate of Anchorage’s Chugach Mountains sits Alaska’s last intact Nike Hercules missile installation. Site Summit was built in 1959 to defend military bases and Anchorage from Soviet invasion. Each winter, soldiers would light a holiday star on the summit’s mountainside as a gesture of goodwill to local citizens, who feared that the Soviets would use the city as a staging area from which to attack the lower 48 States.

The now-decommissioned site, which is listed in the National Register for its local significance as a Cold War-era property, is considered nationally significant by the Alaska State Historic Preservation Officer, who wants it to receive National Historic Landmark status. In addition, some groups are lobbying for the installation to become a tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, Site Summit’s fate is as rocky as its terrain. The U.S. Army proposes to demolish parts of the installation, which has substantially deteriorated. Preservation of the site as a tourist attraction is hampered because access to the site passes through an active firing range, and the National Park Service does not want to accept the property because of budget constraints.

Site Summit is the last of three Nike Hercules missile installations in the Anchorage, Alaska, area, and was one of only two Nike missile installations in the United States that held practice firings. Built to defend Fort Richardson, Elmendorf Air Force Base, and Anchorage from Soviet attack during the Cold War, the site was a challenge to build because of a rocky terrain and harsh climate.Nike Site Summit, Alaska

 

 

Nike Site Summit, Alaska (photo courtesy of Russell Sackett, Fort Richardson, Alaska)

 

Each winter, Site Summit soldiers would light a holiday star on the mountainside as a symbol of goodwill to the people of Anchorage. The site gave a sense of protection to citizens, who feared that the Soviets would use the city as a staging area from which to attack the lower 48 states.

The U.S. Army Garrison, Alaska, is planning to demolish portions of the site, which has significantly deteriorated since it was decommissioned in 1979. The Alaska State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) is lobbying for National Historic Landmark status for Site Summit as a nationally significant Cold War-era site. Some local groups, including the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, the Anchorage Ski Club, and the Nike Site Task Force, would like to see the site interpreted for tourism purposes.

Preservation of the deteriorating site would be difficult, however, because access to the site passes through an active firing range. In addition, the National Park Service has declined to accept the property because of budget constraints.

In 1997, the Army entered into a contract with the SHPO to develop a feasibility study of the management of the property, and in 2001, it provided the SHPO with funding to convene a local task force to consider the mangement recommendations.

In November 2003, the Army notified the ACHP of the adverse effects its proposed plan would have on the historic property. The ACHP determined that its participation in the Section 106 review process was warranted, and it will help the Army develop a Memorandum of Agreement on the treatment of Site Summit.

Staff contact: Lee Keatinge

Updated January 6, 2005

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