Bill designates house for Alaska lieutenant governor lodging

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Alaska Senate passed a bill Friday that would designate an historic house in downtown Juneau as the official residence of the state’s lieutenant governor.

The amendment, from Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, was accepted during debate on HB246, a bill that would add land to Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks.

Egan last year proposed budget language, included in the state operating budget, calling on the Department of Natural Resources to negotiate with the governor’s office to establish the House of Wickersham State Historic Site as lodging for the lieutenant governor when he or she is in the capital city. The department manages the site.

But the Legislature did not provide funding requested by the governor for renovations aimed at making the upper floors more hospitable.

The House must approve the addition to the bill. The office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, said he was fine with the change.

The Victorian home, on a narrow street overlooking Gastineau Channel, was home to some of Juneau’s most prominent early residents, including James Wickersham, who was a U.S. District Court judge, delegate to Congress and, in 1903, part of the first attempt to climb Mount McKinley.

Wickersham bought the home in 1928 and lived in it until he died in 1939. His wife’s niece eventually inherited the home and for years opened it to the public. It was purchased by the state in 1984, according to the state website on the site. The first floor serves as a museum and is open to the public during the summer. There also are caretakers on site.

The expectation has been that the lieutenant governor would stay on the second floor. An Egan aide said there would need to be an additional appropriation to finish renovations.

Egan said this option beats the cost of having the lieutenant governor stay in a hotel when in Juneau, which is what happens now. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell lives in Anchorage.

The senator also said it makes sense to get greater use out of the building, which the state already pays to heat and maintain.

The amendment would also have the house used for official and ceremonial duties of the lieutenant governor and continue to have it available to the public in tours.

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