A historical guide to name origins for Anchorage’s major streets and roads: Part 2

Klatt, Elmore and O’Malley were named after early Anchorage residents, but Basher Drive has a different story.

Part of a continuing weekly series on Alaska history by local historian David Reamer.

The most common type of history question people ask me can be summed up as: “Why’s it named that?” Everyone lives in a relationship with their surroundings. And as with any relationship, knowing more about your partner — Anchorage, in this case — promotes a stronger connection. Today, it is time to learn the name origins for Anchorage’s major roads in the second part of a two-part story.

We left off last time with the transition from Campbell Airstrip Road into Basher Drive. Many Anchorage roads were perfunctorily, even lazily named for people who happened to live near them. Basher is indeed named after a person but gets there differently as no historical man or woman is named Basher.

Incorporated in 1958, Basher was briefly an independent town nestled up in the Chugach Foothills, though the putative city only truly existed as a technically legal way for residents to save money on their taxes and buy surplus road-clearing equipment for the bargain price of $1.98. Though other people owned land in the area, only two families lived there full-time, the Taylors and Cottises.

Earlier in the 1950s, Ralph Cottis hired Stuart Tope (1909-1968) to expand the road. Even in a city where the residents have never been renowned for their driving prowess, Tope’s inability to follow a line stood out. In 1958, Ralph said of Tope, “He bashes everything. When he’s plowing the road, he knocks down trees. If you’re driving up the road, he’s liable to hit you. He’s a born basher.” Marjorie Cottis later recalled, “Stuart was a real peach. One day he almost ran into the doghouse with the blade of his bulldozer. Another time he knocked off the gate post.” If only other Anchorage streets were so honestly named, though getting around town would be confusing with so many roads named Pothole.

[A historical guide to name origins for Anchorage’s major roads: Part 1]

Over toward the other side of town, Minnesota Drive illustrates another way streets get their names. When Minnesota Drive was first built in the early 1950s, it was a relatively minor road, part of a development with several streets named after states, including Wyoming and Oregon. The adjacent part of West 36th Avenue was also originally called California Drive. The chosen states perhaps reflected the background of the developers and their families.

Developers and the city planning departments that approve names tend to favor themes. Collectively named streets are one helpful step toward the construction of a community identity. Where the neighborhood goes from there is another story, e.g., the dead presidents section of Spenard. Other naming clusters around Anchorage include groups of streets named for horse races, places in Switzerland, colleges, flowers, trees, Roman gods and pilots.


Over several decades, Minnesota Drive was built up into its modern form as an expressway, including the bypass linking it to downtown in 1968. In 2012, most of the Minnesota Drive Expressway was renamed the Walter J. Hickel Parkway after the former Secretary of the Interior and two-time governor. However, the new name did not affect existing addresses.

Dowling Road is named for Bernard Andrew “Bud” Dowling (1920-2002), a longtime city surveyor. After retiring in 1978, he promptly relocated to Booneville, North Carolina, where he lived for the rest of his life. A surprising number of Anchorage road namesakes, like Joe Spenard and Burl Tudor, spent only part, sometimes only a small part, of their lives here.

Jewel Lake and Sand Lake Roads, of course, take their naming instructions from the lakes. Jewel Lake was perhaps named for its appearance, as like a jewel to some romantically-inclined pilots. Sand Lake is another of those self-explanatory names. Sand Lake Road used to be far longer, forming a sizeable U-shaped course that additionally included what is now Raspberry Road and Dimond Boulevard.

The Dimond Boulevard section of Sand Lake Road was renamed in 1966 after lawyer, politician, and judge Anthony “Tony” Dimond (1881-1953). He was the mayor of Valdez (1920-1922, 1925-1932), Alaska’s nonvoting delegate to Congress (1933-1945), and a U.S. District Judge (1945-1953). “Dimond” was previously considered as a possible name for the Fairview neighborhood and the Park Strip.

Driving east, Dimond Boulevard transitions into Abbott Road, which is named for homesteader Cecil Abbott (1898-1986), a World War II veteran who moved north in 1944 and made a fortune in real estate and insurance. He was the first president of the Alaska Association of Realtors. Abbott Road was originally a loop onto what is now Lake Otis Parkway. As seen on a 1954 Anchorage map, Abbott Road then included parts of what is now East 68th Avenue and Elmore Road. That loop contained a neighborhood that became known as Abbott Loop, a name that lingered decades after the road names changed.

South of Abbott is O’Malley Road, named for longtime Anchorage doctor James “Doc” O’Malley Sr. (1907-1974). He moved to Anchorage in 1946 with his wife and fellow doctor, Virginia. According to his granddaughter, journalist and author Julia O’Malley, the road was only named after him because he was the first to sign a petition for road improvements.

Huffman Road is named for radio operator Vernon “Vern” Huffman (1906-1974). In 1940, he and his wife Evelyn (1911-1978) moved to Anchorage and homesteaded on what is now Upper Huffman Road. They were leading advocates for the development of a Baháʼí community in Anchorage.

Klatt Road is named for Lester and Dora Klatt, who rode the Alcan Highway north in 1947. They had just married in California and were inspired by a book called “Opportunity in Alaska” by George Sundborg, the content of which can be correctly assumed from the title. When they got to Anchorage, they quickly filed for a homestead on a piece of boggy land several miles south of Anchorage city limits. Lester, people seemed to have called him Les, did some carpentry and sheetmetal work before he and Dora opened their nursery business, Country Gardens.

William “Pappy” Elmore (1915-1980) was a journeyman ironworker when he moved to Alaska in 1949, a former stunt and bomber pilot, the difference being whether it was during peacetime or not. He and his wife, Kathryn, homesteaded on their Elmore Road off Rabbit Creek Road, receiving patent on the property in 1953. He was president of Alaska’s first ironworker union but gained more fame for his role in the Alaska National Guard. He was instrumental in creating Operation Santa Claus, the Christmas tradition of airlifting gifts and supplies to Alaska villages. In 1961, he organized the daring rescue of 11 University of Alaska scientists downed and trapped on an Arctic ice floe. And he commanded the Guard from 1964 to 1966 and 1971 to 1973.

Rabbit Creek Road takes its name from the creek, and the creek name is a direct translation of the Dena’ina place name, Ggeh Betnu. In his 1971 Dictionary of Alaska Placenames, Donald Orth noted that “Rabbit Creek” usage predated the establishment of Anchorage by several years.

Of the two highways out of town, the Glenn Highway is named for career Army officer Edwin Glenn (1857-1926). During construction, the road was informally called the Chickaloon Highway before its official naming in 1942. Glenn’s limited connection to Alaska came as leader of 1898-1899 expeditions into southcentral Alaska.

In early 1900, Glenn departed Alaska for his new posting in the Philippines. The Spanish-American War was two years gone, and he arrived amid open war between Filipino nationalists and American soldiers. During his time there, Glenn ordered several atrocities, including several documented instances of illegal torture, the shooting of prisoners, and the torching of a town without ties to any rebel forces. For these acts, he was twice court-martialed, once found guilty and once acquitted.


Glenn acknowledged these incidents but did not consider what he did torture. This conceptualization reflected his thoughts on the Filipino people, in that he did not truly see them as people. As he testified, “Every man, woman, and child in the islands was an enemy, and in my best judgment, they are today and always will be.” Despite the evident disdain of his commanders and public condemnation, he remained in the Army until 1919, partly a reflection of the shortage of experienced officers.

The other way by car out of town, the Seward Highway, is named after former Secretary of State William Henry Seward (1801-1872). After leaving office, he visited Alaska in 1869 and spoke at Sitka. In a real way, he established a standard for visiting politicians with his vague promises, compliments, and comments on the weather. Said Seward of Alaska, “It is an honest climate, for it makes no pretensions to constancy,” a solid line.

With the speed of a properly functioning city, we have plowed through the name origins of Anchorage’s major roads. In conclusion, it is worth considering the most prominent proposed local roads that never came to be. The 1980 Anchorage, Alaska Metropolitan Area General Plan was published in 1961 and envisioned the city as it might best appear 20 years later. The transportation design in the plan is strikingly different from what we have today. The connection between the Seward and Glenn highways diverts around Fairview, unlike the late 1960s expansion of Gambell and Ingra streets that horribly divided the neighborhood. Most notably, Coastal and Foothills Parkways circle much of the city. While aspects of the 1980 General Plan remained scheduled into the 1970s, city leaders never intended to implement it. Vocal criticism from coastal and foothill residents was a major factor, people with no interest in a major thoroughfare running through their communities.

Key sources:

Abbott, Jeanne. “How the Names of Anchorage’s Past Fare Today.” Anchorage Daily News, June 13, 1982, D4.

“Businessman Abbott Dies at 87.” Anchorage Times, March 8, 1986, A-5.


City of Anchorage Planning Commission. 1980 Anchorage, Alaska Metropolitan Area General Plan. Anchorage: City of Anchorage, 1961.

“Former National Guard General Dies.” Anchorage Times, November 10, 1980, A1, A3.

Hunt, Daniel W. Greater Anchorage Area Guide Map. Anchorage: D.W. Hunt, August 1954.

Kari, James, James A. Fall, and Shem Pete. Shem Pete’s Alaska: The Territory of the Upper Cook Inlet Dena’ina, Revised 2nd ed. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2016.

Makinson, Larry. “Wipe Basher Off Alaska Maps.” Anchorage Daily Times, December 14, 1972, 8.

“New City Set Up Next to Anchorage.” Anchorage Daily Times, August 8, 1958, 9.


“Obituaries—Bud Dowling, 82.” Anchorage Daily News, March 23, 2002, B9.

“Obituaries—Eldrick “Dick” Michael Turpin, 87.” Anchorage Daily News, June 23, 2000, B-15.

“Obituaries—Vernon E. Huffman.” Anchorage Daily News, January 20, 1974, A-2.

O’Malley, Julia. “M.L.K. Avenue: Too Long in Coming.” Anchorage Daily News, August 5, 2010, A3.

Orth, Donald J. Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, Geological Survey, Professional Paper 567. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1971.

David Reamer | Histories of Alaska

David Reamer is a historian who writes about Anchorage. His peer-reviewed articles include topics as diverse as baseball, housing discrimination, Alaska Jewish history and the English gin craze. He’s a UAA graduate and nerd for research who loves helping people with history questions. He also posts daily Alaska history on Twitter @ANC_Historian.