It’s billed as Anchorage’s oldest subdivision but the name is not familiar to many people. “Block 13” is a collection of homes near downtown Anchorage that housed some of the city’s first military families.

Block 13 is really a two-block area that runs from A Street to Barrow Street and Barrow Street to Cordova Street. The homes were built in 1940 and 1941 by soldiers who wanted a place for their families to live, according to Melanie San Angelo.

San Angelo lives in one of the original Block 13 homes. She’s working on a project to document the early history of the neighborhood. She says the homes date back to when the state was a territory and the only housing for arriving soldiers was tents.

Military members wanted real homes for their wives and families, so they decided to build them themselves. San Angelo says they got government loans to buy “kit houses” manufactured in Washington state, but had to clear all the land and put in utilities themselves.

Fifty homes were completed during the two-year period. San Angelo says families worked hard to paint and landscape, but unfortunately, they didn’t get to live in their new homes for very long.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and the impending Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands prompted an evacuation order for all military dependents. Families left their homes in Block 13 and returned to their home states in the early months of 1942. According to San Angelo, the vacant houses sold quickly and today many of the original homes are still standing.

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