In a well-traversed but often overlooked corner of the Alaska Highway system sits an irregular structure. As the years cross over its craggy skull, bringing the unrelenting malice of winter weather, the gawking of confused onlookers and the cruelty of vandals and thieves, the melancholy white dome known to many as "Igloo City" persists -- unabated, but with little faith.
Abandoned and neglected, this dilapidated four-story shell sits 180 miles north of Anchorage along the George Parks Highway on the quiet drive to the Interior Alaska city of Fairbanks. The Igloo's nearest neighbor, Cantwell (population 222), has witnessed the Arctic bungalow and its accompanying gas station thrive, dive and slowly age under the elements and the shuttering lenses of passing motorists, during its 40-plus years in existence.
In its infancy, the Igloo was someone's "dream," but due to some missteps in original construction, economic hardship and the rapid increase in fuel prices this Alaskan oddity never realized its original potential.
Brad Fisher, of Fisher's Fuel Inc. in Big Lake, is the current owner of the Igloo, the gas station and the 38 acres they sit on. Unlink most of the Internet's musing on the structure and its "string of owners" Fisher reports that his family is really only the second set of hands the Igloo has passed through.
The End of an Igloo
The Fishers acquired the property from the Smiths, the original owners. To be fair, the Smith patriarch, Leon, had sold the structure three times before, but in all instances he had been forced to reclaim it because the new owners were not making their payments.
According to Fisher, toward the end of Smith's life, as his health was fading and his concern for the security of his wife growing, he came to Fisher and simply told him that he needed to "get rid" of the Igloo.
"He said 'give me an offer,' but we didn't really want to buy it, so I gave him a low price and, after about 20 minutes out in his car, he agreed," Fisher recalled. "I didn't have a use for a property and I remember thinking 'Oh no, that's not really what I wanted to happen!'" Fisher laughed, "But we bought it and put a few generators up there and put in a sewer system. Our plan was just to keep the traffic going for now and make the updates as we went along."
Following the purchase, Fisher employed families to run the gas station and the cabins behind the property and act as Igloo caretakers while he made plans to renovate the building and turn it into a working hotel.
"Basically," Fisher said, "The windows in that place are too small. They weren't put in according to the blue prints, I don't know why ...