MAT-SU—A historic gold rush roadhouse in Petersville in the foothills of the Alaska Range burned to the ground last night. A caretaker reported seeing the smoke this morning. Only the cabins are left of the Forks Roadhouse. Accessible in winter by snow machine, the roadhouse today was a restaurant, supply hub and entertainment spot for locals and snow mobile enthusiasts.
"It's one of the saddest events in Petersville history," said area Assemblymember Vern Halter, who has been there "a million times." "It's a landmark lodge that will be greatly missed." Off Mile 115 of the Parks Highway, the roadhouse was at the end Petersville Road at mile 18.7. The road is plowed only to mile 15 by the Borough. Snow machines are the mode of travel to the end of the road in winter.
On the Forks Roadhouse facebook page 478 people have pressed “like” with questions of, any new snow, and what band is playing this weekend. Then word was posted of its fate. “The Roadhouse wasn’t just a building, it was history,” wrote Becca Charles on the page. She posted a message: “So many people are devastated by the loss of the roadhouse. Friends were married there and I, personally, met my husband there. There is no information on the cause yet, but the caretaker was there yesterday evening and everything appeared fine. The Forks Roadhouse will be sadly missed.” Authorities are advising snow machiners to be aware that the roadhouse can no longer offer fuel and supplies. It’s also best to stay away from the burned debris.
The Alaska State Troopers and a state fire marshal headed out to the site this morning. No one reported it burning, Talkeetna Fire Chief Ken Farina said. No page went out to firefighters, he said. The log structure is not in an active fire service area. Chief Farina called it “an icon of the area. Snow machiners go there all the time.” Trucks and trailers loaded with snow machines park before the roadhouse at a big parking lot called Kroto Creek, he said.
The Forks Roadhouse was built around 1920 by Belle and Mack McDonald, said Fran Seager-Boss, the Borough’s Cultural Resource Specialist. It was the stopping point for rooms and supplies for freighters and gold miners. A website of a present mining company in the area says more than 200,000 ounces of gold was mined from the region since 1905. The building is registered as historic on the Alaska Heritage Resources Survey, the statewide inventory of historic and archaeological resources.
For more information call Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan at 745-9577 or