Whittier, Alaska: A Community Under One Roof

Whittier, Alaska, is a sleepy town on the west side of Prince William Sound, tucked between picturesque mountains. If you’re picturing a small huddle of houses, think again. Instead, on the edge of town, there stands a 14-story building called Begich Towers — a former Army barracks resembling an aging hotel — where most of the town’s 200 residents live. The post office is near the entrance, the police station is right down the hall, and the school is directly behind the building. Finding your way to the remote town isn’t easy. You can get to Whittier by sea, or you can take a long, one-lane tunnel through the mountains, which at any given time only runs one way. Of course, at night the tunnel is closed down completely. The weather in Whittier is brutal, with 60mph winds being commonplace. That’s why residents inside Begich Towers have everything they need under one roof. There’s a laundromat, a small market, a convenience store, a health clinic that handles minor ailments, and there’s even a church in the basement. Resident June Miller owns a bed and breakfast on the building’s top two floors and has outfitted all of the rooms with binoculars so guests can do a little whale watching and check out the nearby mountain goats. The best thing about Begich Towers — and Whittier for that matter — is that is meets everybody’s needs. Some people love it because it can be very social, while others love it because it’s easy to be reclusive. No matter what the residents prefer, they all agree on one thing: Whittier has some of the best scenery on earth.