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Art Koeninger

Art Koeninger was interviewed by Bill Schneider and David Krupa on October 22, 1993 in his apartment above the Spirit Mountain Artworks store in Chitina, Alaska. In this interview, Art talks about what brought him to the Chitina area and the many issues, opportunities, and challenges that kept him there. Historic preservation and community service are key themes in this interview. He feels strongly about giving back to the community and this is apparent in his interview.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 95-71-18

Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Oct 22, 1993
Narrator(s): Art Koeninger
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) His background and family

2) His father and visiting Mt. McKinley National Park

3) His trip to Mt. McKinley National Park, and deciding to stay in Alaska

4) Buying lots in Chitina

5) Buying the old tin shop, and preserving it

6) Rebuilding the tin shop with grants and volunteers

7) His art gallery, and community service

8) Changes seen in Chitina: roads, electricity, power, buildings, people

9) Changes seen in Chitina: national park, public facilities, fires

10) Changes seen in Chitina: fires, industries

11) A short history of Chitina

12) Ed Schaupp's visit, and rebuilding the tin shop

13) Functions that used to be carried on in the tin shop, and the artist Eustice Ziegler

14) His art and work

15) Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

16) Controversy surrounding the proposed Cordova Road

17) The Chitina community's response to developments

18) Issues related to Chitina and development

19) Chitina's changing relation to tourism

20) Raising revenue to meet the cost of development

21) The need to plan for development

22) The use of this tape by a future audience

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Chitina\ Texas\ dad -- college professor\ Alaska -- historic aspects\ artist\ Huntsville, TX -- grew up\ Koeninger, Art -- local historic park tour guide\ family -- artistic\ sculpture class -- college\ metal sculpture\ jewelry

Section 2: dad -- sociology professor\ parents -- examples of civic responsibility\ dad -- trip to Alaska 1920's\ dad -- worked in Mt. McKinley National Park\ dad -- help build park road\ Savage River\ dad -- worked in western national parks\ Koeninger, Art -- visit national parks when young\ parents -- met in Estes National Park\ dad -- retirement\ dad -- return trip to Alaska\ Koeninger, Art -- Michigan

Section 3: Mt. McKinley National Park\ trip to Alaska\ Wonder Lake\ Koeninger, Art -- remained in Alaska\ Anchorage -- custom jeweler\ Begich, Nick, Jr.

Section 4: Koeninger, Art -- cabin life\ Begich, Nick\ Chitina\ dip netting\ fish camp\ Kennecott\ McCarthy\ land auction -- Anchorage\ Town Lake\ Koeninger, Art -- bought 4 lots

Section 5: salvage -- derelict buildings\ tin shop\ historic preservation\ Gibert, Sally\ National Register -- historic structures\ Koeninger, Art -- grant from National Register

Section 6: tin shop -- rebuilt\ parents -- visit in summers

Section 7: Koeninger, Art -- art gallery\ Alaskan artists\ Koeninger, Art -- social action\ Vietnam War\ Civil Rights\ Koeninger, Art -- worked with migrant farm workers -- Michigan\ Koeninger, Art -- local volunteer fire department\ Emergency Medical Services -- first responder

Section 8: Koeninger, Art -- 1978 move\ road -- not paved\ electricity -- lack of\ telephone -- 1 in Chitina\ road -- now paved\ Chitina Native Corporation\ hydro project\ private telephones\ Chitina -- being discovered\ traffic -- increase\ dogs\ buildings -- lost some\ construction -- new\ people -- turn over of

Section 9: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park\ McCarthy\ accidents -- increases\ outhouses\ trash problems\ Chitina -- growth\ parking -- problems\ accident response time\ Koeninger, Art -- volunteer fire department

Section 10: Chitina -- natural growth\ dip netting\ tourism\ logging\ lodge -- none exist\ cafe\ winter accommodations\ unmet potential

Section 11: Chitina -- built 1910\ railroad\ Chitina Leader -- newspaper\ Schaupp, Fred and Catherine\ Chitina -- tent city\ Schaupp, Fred -- sheet metal worker\ Schaupp, Fred -- born 1875\ Schaupp, Fred -- California\ Schaupp, Catherine -- college in California\ Nome Gold Rush\ Fairbanks\ Schaupp's -- 3 children\ Cordova -- moved 1918\ California -- moved back 1925

Section 12: Schaupp, Ed -- visit\ Schaupp, Ed -- sister\ tin shop -- gutted out\ insulation\ foundation -- redone\ basement -- excavated

Section 13: tin shop -- tall\ stove pipes\ flashing\ roof jacks\ hardware\ boilers and stoves\ metal repairs\ Schaupp, Fred -- smith of hollow ware\ Ziegler, Eustice -- painter

Section 14: metal sculpture\ jewelry making\ Koeninger, Art -- self taught\ Visual Art Center -- Anchorage\ hollow ware -- pewter\ shop -- completion\ gallery -- Art Koeninger\ Koeninger, Art -- custom order\ Artists in Schools Program\ Ketchikan\ Arctic Circle\ Kobuk River

Section 15: Koeninger, Art -- arrived before park\ park impact -- speculations 1970's\ Glennallen\ grant -- historic preservation\ grant -- National Park Service\ park -- visitors\ Koeninger, Art -- business grown with park\ park rangers\ park volunteers\ Koeninger, Art -- doesn't use park\ McCarthy corridor\ Koeninger, Art -- observed much\ National Park Service -- large bureaucracy\ Hannah, Jim\ attacks -- against park employees\ Koeninger, Art -- doesn't hunt\ fishing\ privileges -- Wrangell-St Elias

Section 16: Cordova -- road\ railroad -- shut down 1938\ railroad -- turn into highway\ Pioneer Toll Road -- proposal\ Department of Transportation -- bulldozing to Cordova\ Haley Creek\ public review -- none\ Governor's office\ railroad -- historical register\ Department of Transportation\ Haley Creek\ dip netting\ History and Archaeology Office\ Tiekel River\ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers\ Alaska Department of Fish and Game\ violations -- fresh water\ Wood Canyon\ road -- expensive to build\ Copper River Flats\ road -- doesn't make sense\ Environmental Impact Study -- haven't seen\ ferry system\ issues -- not been discussed\ road -- polarizing issue\ Koeninger, Art -- anti-road\ road -- maintenance\ Koeninger, Art -- maintain as is

Section 17: changes\ locals -- overwhelmed\ Wrangell-St. Elias\ dip netting\ tourism\ Koeninger, Art -- optimistic\ people -- speaking up\ Department of Transportation -- Glennallen\ O'Brien Creek\ Copper River Road\ Chitina -- pedestrian bike path

Section 18: Chitina -- falls between cracks\ RAPIDS -- multi-agency community needs assessment\ dip net -- plan\ Native property -- trespass\ real estate -- inflation

Section 19: tourism -- opportunities\ Chitina\ tourism -- no planning\ Hickel, Walter Governor -- lack of understanding

Section 20: property taxes\ Copper Valley\ development -- lack of responsibilities\ sales tax\ fire hall

Section 21: state -- control\ Koeninger, Art -- rescue story\ revenue -- community services\ developers -- help find solutions

Section 22: perspectives on problems\ National Park Service\ tourists