Golden Heart History: James G. Steese

 Steese Expressway (KTVF/Aaron Walling/Jume 16, 2020)
Steese Expressway (KTVF/Aaron Walling/Jume 16, 2020) (KTVF)
Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 4:39 PM AKDT
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The Steese Highway, part of which is known as the Steese Expressway in Fairbanks, has served as a connecting road to some of outlier towns in the Interior. This road shares a name with a man who is full of interesting facts: James G. Steese.

In what started as a road for the Circle Mining District in the late 1800s, the highway was done by 1927 and was named the Steese Highway. Steese wore many hats, being an officer for the Army Corps of Engineers, serving as the president of the Alaska Road Commission, and being a world traveler.

"James Gordon Steese did [much] for Alaska in general as the president of the Alaska Road Commission. He was here at a time of a lot of improvement [for] the haphazard wagon trails and corduroy roads that we had up here." said Alaska Department of Transportation's Caitlin Frye.

Steese's resume speaks for itself. From 1907 to 1912, he helped with the Isthmian Railroad and the Panama Canal Project. After World War I, Steese went over to post-war Europe to assess the situation and help rebuild the area.

He was a champion for public works in Alaska, taking his voice to the U.S. Government. He even went back to Panama in World War II to help the defense effort for the canal.

Steese's impact around the world was vast, and in the Interior he is remembered as the namesake of the highway.

"The Interior has so few roads considering how much is there. Every access point that we have is an important way for Alaskans and anybody else to see what Interior Alaska is all about." said Frye.

Next time you drive the Steese, remember the history of it, and why it is important.

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