Oscar Anderson's home has had several close calls over the years. There was the 1964 earthquake that knocked down big concrete buildings but left the little cottage unscathed.
There was the permit his widow picked up to burn the old place down after the land underneath it was sold to build a condominium. The municipality worked out a quick deal to acquire it and move it 60 feet closer to the Inlet.
Since then there have been economic busts and funding requests that dangled in jeopardy. Money to operate what is now called the Oscar Anderson House Museum ran out in the last fiscal year. But the municipality's Historic Preservation Commission found $25,000 in its funds and, as of Monday, the old bungalow reopened to the public on a limited basis.
"We opened it for the rest of the summer, three days a week," said Kristine Bunnell, senior planner at the municipality's planning department, which oversees City Hall's historic preservation component. Because of funding issues, the house opened a three-day-a-week schedule last year starting in mid-July.
Tours are offered from noon to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and groups can make reservations for tours by calling 274-2336.
"We're also open for special events, like a small wedding service, a tea, a small meeting," Bunnell said. "And we're going to be doing the Swedish Christmas again in the first two weekends of December."
In addition, attempts are under way to record an oral history concerning the house and early Anchorage and produce an inventory of the objects in the house.
"Hopefully we'll find a retired curator to go through the house and make a list of all the artifacts," Bunnell said. "Looking forward to next year, we're trying to find the best way to have it open."
Anderson, born in Fagerskog, Sweden, said he was the 18th person to arrive in what became Anchorage. He ran a meat market across from City Hall on Fourth Avenue, where Stewart's Photo is now, but he made most of his money as a partner in the Evan Jones Coal Co., which supplied the fuel that heated most of the city for its first 40 years.
When built in 1915, the house was notably different from the wall tents and log cabins that dotted the settlement. It's said to be the first wood frame house in the city and is one of the few from the early days to retain its basic outline and floor plan.
The only major alteration from the way it looked when new is that a full-length porch was enclosed to make more room -- and that work was done a long time ago.
The builders included Gerhard Johnson, a pioneer in stucco siding, whose Swetman House, built the following year in Seward, also remains standing. Both buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Anderson died in 1974 at the age of 91. The property was sold soon after. In being relocated, the building was set on a new basement structure, now used for meetings. But the view of the Inlet -- said to be a favorite painting spot for family friend Sydney Laurence -- has remained pretty much the same.
In 1978, the house underwent a major preservation effort. Restoration architect Samuel Combs carefully investigated the original appearance and dug into the paint, finding 14 layers of wallpaper in the process. Volunteers donated their time. Members of the community found period furniture and fixings with which to adorn it. The Seth Thomas wall clock was donated by two 9-year-olds from O'Malley Elementary School, Robert Winn and Hunter Hasbrouck, who found the clock in the bushes on the Hillside and did much of the refurbishing themselves.
The rededication of the restored house brought hundreds of people to Elderberry Park, including politicians and senior citizens who remembered it when it was new.
Today, the quaint house is a reminder of Anchorage's relative youth. Even the most ancient building in town is not yet 100 years old.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
The Oscar Anderson House is ready for visitors