65° F

Valdez Residents Recall 1964 Earthquake Relocating Community

Published On: Aug 13 2013 09:43:00 AM AKDT

Gloria Day, longtime Valdez resident, talks about city development and change. (KTUU-TV, 8-13-13)


The city of Valdez got its start in 1898 during the gold rush. At the time, it was a tent city beside Prince William Sound.

Most of the original town site was destroyed during the 1964 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, which killed more than 30 people.

Andrew Goldstein, curator of collection and exhibitions at the Valdez Museum, says the entire town was condemned after the quake and the Army Corp of Engineers recommended that what remained of Valdez be moved. The people of Valdez were given two years to leave and move to the new town site, which now sits about four and a half miles away from the original one.

About 50 buildings were relocated and a large collection of photos and relics were given to the Valdez Museum.

During the course of its history, the town's major industry changed from fur trading, to gold. These days, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company has become the major employer.

Goldstein says the majority of people in town either work at Alyeska or are connected to the oil industry.

Recently, there has also been a renewed push to expand the city’s economy to include more tourism.

Valdez was originally named after the head of the Spanish navy. According to Goldstein, the pronunciation of the towns’ name changed during the Spanish-American war.

“They wanted to make it sound less Spanish, and that’s also when they changed the towns’ spelling from an ‘S’ at the end to a ‘Z,’” Goldstein said.

Goldstein says Valdez has always had a boom or bust cycle.

“I think that if there’s one arching theme for Valdez, it’s that people have come to find their wealth and adventure,” Goldstein said.

Contact Rebecca Palsha