101 Benson Drive (1300 Phoenix Rd), Seward, AK

Status: Orphanage; Abandoned; Demolished; Park


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Built in 1926 to replace former homes for displaced children in Unalaska and Nome which were showing their age and overpopulated.

The Spanish Flu pandemic after World War I left many more children as orphans than was usual, especially in the Aboriginal population.

All houses were run by the United Methodist Church.

Seward was chosen because, at the time, it was the largest port and biggest transportation hub in Alaska.

The house was named after a Methodist minister who worked in the northeastern USA during the colonial days.

Most of the kids brought to the house were from either the Seward Peninsula or the Aleutian Islands. Many of them became famous including Benny Benson who in 1926 won the contest to design the Alaskan Territorial flag which is still used as the Alaskan State flag today,

Ephraim Kalmakoff who at 14 won the Mt Marathon Race and still holds the record for the youngest winner ever and Peter Gould who went onto to the Alaskan Methodist University (now Alaska Pacific University) and became it’s President.

The campus consisted of 3 main buildings – including a boys and a girls dormitory – as well as a number of smaller buildings.

In World War II the US Army moved the orphans and painted the buildings in camouflage thus creating the Fort Raymond Army Base.

When the war ended the government gave the site back to the church but some changes were made. The kids now attended public school in the town and were served government supplied food rather than growing their own on the farm.

The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 severely damaged the site so much – the boy’s dorm had to be demolished afterwards – that the church abandoned the site and built a new facility in Anchorage.

In 1966 ownership was passed to the City of Seward who sold it to a number of private firms over time – none of which did much of anything – until 2014 when ownership was passed to a non-profit called Friends of the Jesse Lee Home. They were to remove all the hazardous materials and convert it into a modern high school.

In 2015 – with little work done and lots of money spent as well as a lack of accountancy – the city removed it’s grants.

In 2019 – with still little work done – the city declared the conditions of ownership were not met and took the property back.

In 2020 City Council voted to demolish all remaining buildings and replace them with a park.

The structures were demolished in 2020-21.


Paranormal Activity

Many reports indicate that children were killed in the earthquake – especially in the badly damaged boys dorm – and that is the source of the paranormal activity.

Reported activity includes:

Apparitions of children playing (this may time slips pre-1964 when children would be playing on the grounds); shadow figures usually moving across the broken windows of the buildings when they stood; phantom sounds of children laughing; disembodied voices; phantom sounds of children jumping rope or bouncing balls; touches and pulls by little hands around the waist level by unseen entities; empathic feelings of anxiety and sadness; phantom sounds of little children walking and running and feelings of being watched.