Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ester is a census-designated place located in Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska. As of the 2000 census, the population of the CDP is 1,680. It should be noted that the boundaries of Ester vary depending on who you ask. Ester village has only a couple of hundred people and is considerably smaller than the geographic area assigned to it by the US Census Bureau. While the village is often described as a "bedroom community" of Fairbanks, its inhabitants take exception to this description, and have a strong sense of community.
Ester was originally a gold mining camp on Ester Creek, with the first claim staked in February 1903 by Latham A. Jones. Jones worked with the Eagle Mining Company, the biggest claimholder on Glen Gulch in the Rampart mining district, but it was an independent miner, John "Jack" Mihalcik, a Czechloslovakian immigrant born in 1866, who was the first person to actually discover gold on Ester Creek. Mihalcik staked his claim in November 1903 but the news of the discovery of gold did not become public until the following February. By 1907, Ester City had a population of around 200 people, with a thriving mining industry. A social hall was completed in 1907, and was well known throughout the mining district for its dance floor. The hall was used for religious services as well as dances, movies, card games, parties, and other entertainment. The town had five saloons and a couple of hotels. In 1908 and 1910, the hall was the site of campaign speeches by candidates for the seat of Territorial Delegate. (Labor won in 1908, but Judge James Wickersham won the Ester precinct in 1910.) By 1909 Ester City had a baseball field, a doctor, a mine workers' union local, and a teacher, but gold production was beginning to decline.
The Berry Post Office moved in 1910 from near the Berry brothers' claim about two miles downstream from Ester City into J.C. Kinney's general store in Ester. (The post office retained the name of Berry until 1965, when it was finally changed to that of the town it had been in for 55 years.) In the mid-1920s, the Fairbanks Exploration Company began buying claims on Ester Creek, started operations in 1929, and in 1933 built a mess hall for their camp in Ester (now a historic landmark and still in use today as a tourist attraction and hotel). The F.E. Company revitalized the town, but they also literally reshaped it, doing large-scale open pit mining using enormous floating dredges, removing in the process much of the original sites of Berry and Ester.
In 1941, the Ester Community Association was founded. In 1958 The F.E. Company sold their Ester camp, and it reopened under new management as a historic resort. The Cripple Creek Resort, which later became the Ester Gold Camp, features a musical variety show including Robert W. Service's poetry, held at a sawdust-strewn bar known as the Malemute Saloon, after Service's poem, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." In 1974 the Ester Volunteer Fire Department was officially founded (bucket brigades had existed since the 19-oughts). Gold mining continued on a small scale. In 1986, the Ester Community Association, working with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, built the Ester Community Park, which became a local center of social activity. During this year, the community also earned its nickname, the People's Republic of Ester, during a zoning battle with Joe Ryan, a member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. Mr. Ryan used this epithet against the village, as much of the population of Ester opposed his proposed zoning changes, but the village took it on as a badge of pride, and now refer to their community by this name.
In 1988, Mushing magazine began publication in Ester. The town became the site of a sled dog stage race between Ester and Nenana and back again, the Fireplug Sled Dog Race, which was held for ten years, from 1990 to 2001, and in which many famous mushers participated, including Dean Seibold and Jeff King. In January 1999, the town's first newspaper, The Ester Republic, was founded. In August 1999 the John Trigg Ester Library opened, a membership library named after a local resident who had started a book exchange in a nearby bar. Today the town features two saloons, five publishers, a library, the post office, a hat shop, a silversmith, numerous art studios, and three active gold mines.
Ester is located at 64°51'21" North, 147°58'42" West (64.855700, -147.978434).
Ester Community Park
Ester has one well-used park, maintained and improved by the Ester Community Association's Park Committee and other volunteers from the community. The park has an ice rink that doubles as a basketball court in the summer, a children's playground, a picnic pavilion, and a soccer field. The park, situated next to the Ester Volunteer Fire Department, is the site of numerous soccer games, Ester Football League games, broomball, the Fourth of July picnic, musical gatherings, and other events throughout the year.
The village square
Ester village wraps around a square at the foot of Ester Lump. This "town square" is actually the parking lot of the Golden Eagle Saloon, divided in two sections by Main Street, but functions as a central gathering place during celebrations such as the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve. Private residences, the library, a guest house, the Golden Eagle, and Mushing magazine's offices surround the square.
The local saw has it that "Ester is still around because there is a MacDonald's in Fairbanks." This is true both culturally and economically. Most Ester residents are employed in Fairbanks or at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, although there are many small Ester-area businesses and self-employed people. The largest Ester employers are seasonal, with the Ester Gold Camp (although this is owned by a Fairbanksan), Mushing magazine, Judie Gumm Designs, and the local mines as the businesses with the most employees. Fairbanks provides a market for Ester products and services and thus helps to keep the small Ester economy alive. Because Fairbanks acts as a draw (due to its larger market and resources) for such things as big-box stores and fast food chains, Ester has been able to retain its mining village feel. This is important to Ester's tourist economy, which capitalizes on the status of the gold camp buildings as a historical landmark.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 1,680 people, 727 households, and 386 families residing in the CDP. The population density is 10.0/km² (26.0/mi²). There are 814 housing units at an average density of 4.9/km² (12.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP is 87.44% White, 0.89% Black or African American, 4.58% Native American, 0.71% Asian, 0.30% Pacific Islander, 0.95% from other races, and 5.12% from two or more races. 2.50% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 727 households out of which 28.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% are married couples living together, 6.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 46.9% are non-families. 35.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 1.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.20 and the average family size is 2.91.
In the CDP the population is spread out with 22.7% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 40.8% from 25 to 44, 25.8% from 45 to 64, and 2.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 119.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 116.3 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP is $50,461, and the median income for a family is $73,750. Males have a median income of $41,713 versus $24,850 for females. The per capita income for the CDP is $29,155. 8.1% of the population and 4.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 9.8% of those under the age of 18 and 0.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
People of Ester
Ester residents are referred to either as Esterites or Esteroids. The latter term is more commonly applied to those living in the vicinity, rather than the village proper, or to newly arrived residents.
Magnus Colcord "Rusty" Heurlin, 1895-1986. Rusty was born in Christanstad, Sweden, to American parents and raised in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He attended art classes at the Fenway School of Illustration in Boston. He first came to Alaska in 1916, to Valdez, but left the state during World War I. He returned to Alaska in 1924, and moved to Ester, where he remained until his death. Heurlin was known for his pastel palette and luminous skies, and influenced many later Alaska artists.
Ester has a strong art community, including painters, photographers, collagistes, sculptors, metalsmiths, and woodworkers. It has hosted an annual intercontinental simultaneous art exhibit since 2000, the BiPolar Art Show, with the MAAG (the Mechanical Equipment Center Alternative Art Gallery) in McMurdo, Antarctica.
Matthew Reckard, "The Discovery of Gold on Ester Creek," v. 1 n. 3, The Ester Republic.
Matthew Reckard, "A History of the Ester Post Office," 2002, The Ester Republic Telephone Directory and Local Et Cetera, 2nd edition.
Ester's newspaper and community association provide more information on the village: http://esterrepublic.com
Ester Volunteer Fire Department: http://esterfire.org
BiPolar Art Show: http://maag.60south.com
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