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Dillingham’s historic school building scheduled for demolition

Dillingham's historic school building. July 14, 2023.
Christina McDermott
Dillingham's historic school building. July 14, 2023.

Dillingham’s Bureau of Indian Affairs Territorial School is scheduled for demolition this month. In her report to the city council on October 5, Acting City Manager Kimberly Johnson said she had met with contractor Neil Bennett to discuss the building’s demolition, and that he had completed the necessary supply orders for the city’s domestic water supply. The demolition will require the city to reroute water service lines.

In an August report, CRW Engineering, an Anchorage-based firm, said that the building’s north wall and part of its foundation were structurally unstable. CRW recommended demolition as the most economical means for the city to address the building's problems. The report also noted that a multi-day leak beneath the building that occurred this summer may have further destabilized it by undermining its foundation.

At the September 7th City Council meeting, council members voted to demolish the school building. At the time, Mayor Alice Ruby recommended the council wait to vote on this action item, as the item was not on the agenda.

Council members Kaleb Westfall and Bert Luckhurst expressed concern about waiting too long to demolish the building. Westfall said he was concerned about starting the demolition too late in the year, which could lead to issues with re-routing the city’s water supply. Luckhurst said that citizen comments may not change the outcome for the building, if engineers have determined it needs to come down.

Ted Krieg, in a letter submitted as citizen comment for the October meeting, advocated for saving the school. Krieg said the council should have given the public notice of the issue, and that it should allow a six-month period to explore options before deciding whether to save or demolish the building.

Krieg wrote that in 1991, the Dillingham Historic Preservation Commission recommended the building be considered for a National Register nomination, which would formally recognize the building’s historical significance. He said this status would qualify the building for state grants.

“I believe the support is still in the community to save the Territorial School and the residents of Dillingham deserve the opportunity to support that effort,” he said.

Additionally, Krieg wrote that the building could also one day provide needed housing. The building once housed teachers, according to a 2012 report from Jeffrey S Wilson Architecture. At the time, the firm found that the building was unsound and not to code and recommended vacating it.

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Christina McDermott began reporting for KDLG, Dillingham’s NPR member station, in March 2023. Previously, she worked with KCBX News in San Luis Obispo, California, where she focused on local news and cultural stories. She’s passionate about producing evocative, sound-rich work that informs and connects the public.