When Jack Lesh and his family moved to Gustavus in 1965, it was quite a different place from today’s community. Though we are still a small town, the modern world has made its way here, and changed this little place a great deal.
The family got to Juneau in 1960. In 1961, Jack and Sally came to Gustavus for the first time, and spent a night at the Gustavus Inn. Later that same year, they came back with the whole family and camped near the river. They came back every summer after that, until their move. They wanted to move here, but at that time didn’t know how they would make a living. Then, in 1965 the owners of the Gustavus Inn decided they wanted to leave, so the Leshes bought the property.
Before they purchased the inn, the family spent four summers visiting Gustavus, and they needed a place to stay while they were here. In Juneau,they bought a wannigan that sat on a log float on a beach there. They brought it to Gustavus and got permission from a resident to put it next to the river. Thus, when they came over in summer after that first year, they had a place to live. Later they acquired the land where Jack’s present house stands, and moved the wannigan to higher ground. When they bought the inn, they moved there, to an upstairs apartment with three bedrooms and a bath. However, the wannigan, fixed as living quarters, furnished a temporary home to a number of people over the years. The wannigan did not have running water or a bath. There was an outhouse close by. They had to haul all their water, but a sink inside allowed them to dump grey water, which ran outside through a pipe.
(Note: Out of curiosity, I looked up “wannigan.” Outside of Alaska, it refers to a wooden box for carrying supplies, such as that carried on a canoeing trip. In Alaska, it means a small house or bunkhouse mounted on skids, and then towed to where it was needed.)
The Gustavus Inn started because it became a solution to a problem. After World War II, commercial airlines flew between Juneau and Seattle. At times the weather would be bad, and incoming flights would divert to Continue reading