Fairbanks, home to 35,000 people, is the second-largest city in Alaska; the surrounding boroughs swell the metro area to nearly 100,000. Founded in 1901 on the banks of the Chena River, Fairbanks grew quickly when gold was discovered nearby in 1902. But the city fell on hard times when the reserves of easily accessible gold were depleted a decade later. Additional influxes of permanent residents occurred during periods of construction: the Alaska Railroad in the 1920s and the Trans-Alaska pipeline in the 1970s.
As the oil flowing through the Trans-Alaska pipeline slows due to dwindling reserves in the Arctic, the economy has come to rely on tourism, and the city itself retains a boom/bust feeling. The downtown area is tired and worn, while the airport terminal is new and creates a modern space for visitors traveling by air. And the Museum of the North on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks is visually stunning. In addition to the extremes in architecture, the climate is extreme. Temperatures can plunge to more than -50 degrees in the winter when the sun shines for less than four hours per day. In contrast, the sun is visible for more than 21 hours a day during the summer solstice.
In the welcome sign department, Fairbanks competes with Anchorage: the city boasts three welcome signs (although they are more dispersed those in Anchorage) and each one is unique. And there is a fourth bonus sign for the downtown area.
The first sign is located at the airport exit and although not particularly eye-catching, it is a good effort. It includes the motto that was bestowed upon the city by the Fairbanks Commercial Club in 1911 – the Golden Heart City.
This second sign is drab and dull.
The third sign reflects the city’s motto in a more subtle fashion: although it might be hard to see, the golden flowers on the left are in the shape of a heart.
And, last but not least, is this sign in downtown Fairbanks. Unfortunately it is located in the parking lot of a bank and not in a spot that would normally be considered welcoming.