Juneau: The State Capital of Alaska
A cosmopolitan outpost in a wilderness setting
Harrisburg. That was Juneau’s name before Richard Harris fell out of favor with the locals, who turned their allegiance to his co-founder Joe Juneau. In 1880, prospectors Harris and Juneau relied on Tlingit Chief Kowee to guide them to the mouth of Gold Creek where they discovered gold—and the state’s first major gold strike was on.
Early growth was a direct result of the mining industry. Juneau prospered and was established as the capital of Alaska in 1906 when the government was transferred from Sitka. It's the only state capital that borders a foreign country.
Alaskans elect a governor and a lieutenant governor to four-year terms. The governor, who appoints the heads of all state departments and many other officials, is considered one of the most powerful governors in the United States.
The Alaska State Legislature includes a Senate (20 seats) and a House of Representatives (40 seats). Alaska’s legislative Session lasts 90 days, from January through April.
Alaska’s capital, completed in 1931, began as a territorial and federal building. When Alaska became a state in 1959, the building was given to the state to serve as our capital. Although it has no traditional dome, the capitol has marble columns, a reproduction of the Liberty Bell, and historical photographs and paintings. It’s open to the public for self-guided tours Monday - Friday throughout the year.
When Alaska decided it needed a flag in 1927 (before we became a state), the territory hosted a contest among its 7th through 12th-grade school children. Thirteen-year-old Benny Benson, a 7th-grade Alaska Native, won the contest with his design featuring the Big Dipper (part of the constellation Ursa Major, or Great Bear, symbolizing strength) and the North Star, which depicted future statehood. The blue background represents the brilliant Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, which is now the Alaska state flower. In 1959, the drafters of the Alaska constitution stipulated that the territorial flag become the official state flag.