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Talkeetna's historic Fairview Inn for sale

Laurel Andrews

Talkeetna's famous party bar is for sale.

For nearly a century, the Fairview Inn has been the nerve center of the Southcentral Alaska town nestled 115 miles north of Anchorage, a place where locals congregated decades before the town took shape as a destination for tourists and mountain climbers. Today, the Fairview Inn is a popular venue for live music and local events and the bar's current owner and management hopes it will stay that way.

The Fairview Inn -- one of more than a dozen Talkeetna buildings listed on the National Register for Historic Places -- greets visitors in the heart of downtown, at the corner of Main Street, across from the town's general store. That's a little unusual, said manager Marne Gunderson. "Usually you find a place like that at the end of the road."

Owner Phillip Weidner bought the Fairview Inn, "a unique place in Alaska history," in the 1990s, he said. His goal was to both preserve the historic property and provide a venue for musicians and artists.

Weidner said he has been contemplating the sale of the Fairview for "some time," and he's now reached a point in his life at which it's time to move on.

"Even if I sell the Fairview I'm still going to treasure it," Weidner said. "It's a very unique and exceptional place."

For sale

The Fairview's listed price is $1.8 million, which includes a costly liquor license. "I want to sell the package because I want to preserve the Fairview," Weidner said.

Realtor Paul Schilling said the building is roughly 3,000 square feet. Upstairs, seven rooms -- each with its own name, such as "Stephanie" or "Joe" -- are available for rent. An outdoor pavilion area extends behind the bar. Combining the building and two adjacent lots also included in the sale, the entire property is .27 acres, Schilling said.

All the memorabilia in the bar -- photographs that line the walls, an old piano and a bear hide on the ceiling, among other small pieces of history -- is included in the sale.

In order to maintain its listing with the National Register for Historic Places, any renovations done to the Fairview must be done in conformity with certain standards.

Schilling said he has received 35 inquiries since the property was listed for sale at the end of May. "I actually was surprised by the number of calls," he said.

Both Alaskans and Outside investor groups have inquired about the property, he said. Those Outside investors, like many who visit Alaska and wind up moving to the Last Frontier, "sort of fall in love with the place and ... look for a hook to come back," Schilling said.

Weidner hopes that the Fairview's future owners will continue to bring in musicians and artists so that the bar continues to be the "mecca" that it's been for nearly a century, he said.

'Half-century of isolation'

The Fairview is just one of Talkeetna's many historic sites. Construction on the Fairview began in 1920, just one year after the Talkeetna town site was established, according to the Fairview's original nomination form for the National Register for Historic Places.

The Fairview opened for business in 1923. During his visit to Alaska that same year, President Warren G. Harding had his hair cut at the Fairview, according to the nomination form. Harding died shortly after his visit to the Last Frontier.

Throughout much of the 20th century, Talkeetna remained relatively remote. The town was connected to the Alaska Railroad in 1920, and air travel to the town became possible in the 1930s. However, Talkeetna remained cut off from the Parks Highway until the 1970s, when an 18-mile road was built connecting the town with the highway running from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

"Talkeetna's half-century of isolation ... has enabled the town to retain a pioneer rustic atmosphere," the nomination form states.

The Fairview Inn is one of more than a dozen buildings in Talkeetna's Historic District, including Nagley's General Store -- home to Alaska's most famous feline, "Mayor" Stubbs -- and the Talkeetna Roadhouse.

Talkeetna now has a population of 876, according to 2010 U.S. Census data, and in the summer months is flooded with tourists who pack the streets and businesses.

In the last 40 years, the Fairview has changed as Talkeetna became a destination for travelers, tourists on the Alaska Railroad and mountain climbers looking to scale Mount McKinley, said longtime resident Pam Rannals.

Rannals managed the Fairview for eight years, ending in 1989. Back in those days, "it was always like everybody's living room," she said.

She first arrived in Talkeetna in 1975, when summer months were still quiet. On a late night, one could "hear a pin drop" in downtown, she said.

"Now at 3 o'clock in the morning the Fairview is still buzzing," Rannals laughed.

'A party bar'

Gunderson agrees that both the town and the Fairview Inn have faced an influx of curious travelers in recent decades.

"I think (the town is) going through a transition period," she said.

During summer months, Gunderson feels "a little bit bad for the locals," and said it's impossible to "do justice" to the year-round clientele when the bar is packed to the rafters and even ordering a drink can be a challenge.

During a typical summer weekend night, the Fairview is "full of climbers, people, passersby," Gunderson said. "It's just a mix from old to young, and everyone's dancing."

The bar hosts musicians from both in and out of state on weekend nights, and Thursday is what they call "club night," when hip-hop and dance music blast throughout the bar.

"Bands love playing at the Fairview because they get good audience participation," Gunderson said. "People aren't too cool to dance at the Fairview."

Gunderson called the Fairview Inn "a party bar."

"It's not a fancy bar, it's not a quiet bar, it's not a dive bar," she said. "People want to come out and hear the music."

Come winter, the scene shifts drastically, Gunderson said. A typical night would see "just a few locals sitting around talking," Gunderson said.

People will stop by the bar and ask, "So, where's the party?" Gunderson said. Her reply: "This is the party."

Gunderson hopes an Alaskan will purchase the bar. "I'd love to see it stay what it is," she said.

She also noted that potential buyers should be aware of the community's sense of ownership over the Fairview. Many locals have worked at the Fairview at some point in their lives, or have just helped the bartenders out at one point or another.

"The bar really is owned by the town," Gunderson said.

Contact reporter Laurel Andrews at laurel@alaskadispatch.com.

 


By LAUREL ANDREWS
laurel@alaskadispatch.com