Picturing the past

Local author pens pictorial history of Eagle River


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Eagle River’s Zane Treesh poses with his new book, “Eagle River” during a visit to the Star’s offices on Monday, June 10. Treesh, who grew up in Eagle River, recently authored the pictorial history of the Eagle River area for Arcadia Publishing.

MATT TUNSETH

The latest chapter in Eagle River’s history has been written by one of the town’s own.

Zane Treesh, a 1988 Chugiak High grad who moved to Eagle River as a baby, recently completed Eagle River, a pictorial history that’s part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series.

“It was a fun project to do and a lot of work,” said Treesh, who works at the Anchorage Museum’s Atwood Research Center.

Treesh previously worked for the Anchorage Public Library system for 14 years, and that’s where he landed the book deal. A colleague who knew Treesh was from Eagle River was approached by Arcadia about working on the project, and the co-worker suggested the publisher talk to Treesh.

“Before I knew it I was writing a book,” he said.

The book includes more than 200 images taken from the collections of the Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society, the local VFW, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce and the Anchorage Museum; along with the private collections of Helen Phillips, the late Archie Boyles and other longtime locals.

Treesh said one of the most enjoyable parts of gathering the photographs was getting to hear the stories behind them from longtime locals such as Phillips, Phyllis Smith and Nanette Belk.

“I enjoyed hearing some of those stories,” he said.

The book includes both photos and short historical sections discussing the history of Eagle River, which was first written about during Walter Mendenhall’s 1898 for the U.S. government. The earliest photo in the book was taken of Eagle Glacier during the Mendenhall exploration.

The book traces Eagle River’s evolution through the early 1900s railroad days into early homestead settlement in the 1940s and 50s and to the present day.

As a longtime Eagle River resident, Treesh said he was fascinated by some of the old photos he came across. One of his favorites, he said, is one depicting the wide-open expanse of Pippel’s Field before Eagle River’s downtown was developed.

“It was kind of fun to find those photos of it as it was then,” he said.

The book went on sale nationwide June 10. It’s the fourth “Images of America” title about an Alaska town, joining books about Cordova, Talkeetna and Wrangell. A fifth title in the series, Alaska’s Whaling Coast, is due out soon, according to Arcadia Publishing’s website.

Getting to see his name on the cover of a book was a thrill for Treesh. As a historian who has spent most of his professional life working in libraries and research collections, he said it’s neat to know his book will be among the stacks.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’ve got an ISBN number of my own now.”

Eagle River retails for $21.99. Published by Arcadia Publishing, the book is available at local retailers, online or at www.arcadiapublishing.com.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com.

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