North Pole’s history may not be the most unknown Alaskan story, but the city still has a few secrets.
Bon and Bernice Davis arrived in Fairbanks in 1944. They traveled 15 miles down what at that point was simply the Richardson Trail, not Highway, when they came across 160 acres of trees and brush that would become their homestead. That homestead, of course, would grow as more people came to the area.
In 1951, Orland Carey bought the northern 40 acres of the Davis homestead, and gave it the name of the Sequoia Subdivision. In 1952, Dahl and Gaske Development Company bought the majority of the Davis subdivision with the exception of a few parcels the Davis’ would continue to live on.
As the community grew, the town would surely need a name, but what to name it?
At one point, the town was actually called Mosquito Junction and for a period time the name actually stuck. However, officially, the town would be known as “Davis” till it became apparent Dahl and Gaske wanted to begin attracting business to the settlement.
The story goes Dahl and Gaske would name the town North Pole in an attempt to bring industry to the burgeoning community. Now it’s been said the area was consistently colder than other interior homesteads, so there may have been more to it than just trying to attract business. But Dahl and Gaske really believed naming the community North Pole would attract toy manufacturers to locate plants in the area and advertise toys made in North Pole.
The company approached Bon Davis to petition the Untied States District Court to change the name from “Davis,” which he would eventually acquiesce under a certain amount of duress. So it was the name of the community officially became North Pole.
Unfortunately, Dahl and Gaske’s plan didn’t exactly pan out. The “made in North Pole” plan failed to bear any fruit as toy manufacturers believed Alaska was too far out of the way and expensive to maintain consistent distribution routes.
However, North Pole continued to grow and continues to grow to this day.
And despite intentions to make North Pole a toy mecca, the town truly embraced the Christmastime spirit Dahl and Gaske only alluded to at the town’s inception. Today, streets bear holiday names like Santa Claus Lane, Holiday Road, Snowman Lane, and so on. Streetlights are decorated like candy canes.
And there is, of course, The Santa Claus House, the “official” home of Santa Claus. Old Saint Nick remains a constant presence within the building, providing photo opportunities with himself or with live reindeer along with a veritable treasure trove of Christmas toys and knick-knacks.
Though North Pole never managed to turn itself into the toy mecca its founders intended, the town took an idea and ran with it. Things may not have gone exactly according to plan, but they rarely ever do. It was the spirit that persevered, instead of the idea, and North Pole is the city “where the spirit of Christmas lives year ‘round.”