The 1935 Matanuska Colony

“The valley looks great. It looks fine, fine. You got a mighty nice place here.”     ~American humorist and commentator Will Rogers, Palmer, Alaska, August, 1935

a-nice-place-coverThis book combines the history of the Matanuska Valley with the photographs of A.R.R.C. photographer Willis T. Geisman, who was charged with recording the events surrounding the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project. This book combines two earlier titles into one comprehensive history of this important era in Alaska, when the federal government took a direct hand in the future of the territory.

The Matanuska Colony Project was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal for America, an unprecedented series of economic programs designed to provide aid to people reeling from the Great Depression. Nearly one hundred new communities were designed and developed by Roosevelt’s planners, but the largest, most expensive, and most audacious of them all was to build a government-sponsored farming community in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley.

“A Mighty Nice Place,” The History of the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project, by Helen Hegener, explains how a few visionary men convinced the planners in Washington, D.C. to extend their community-building efforts north to Alaska, and tells the complex story of this important chapter in Alaska’s history.

Photo by Willis T. Geisman, A.R.R.C. 1935

Photo by Willis T. Geisman, A.R.R.C. 1935

The remarkable photos of official A.R.R.C. photographer Willis T. Geisman documented every aspect of the venture, and his compelling images tell the true stories, moments in time captured and preserved, brought together here with the detailed history of the Matanuska Colony Project.

An editorial in the November, 1972 Agroborealis magazine, published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, beckoned those who would join Alaska’s farming pioneers: “The great American dream! To be independent. To be completely self reliant and, if possible, self sufficient. Not necessarily to be rich, but to be one’s own boss and beholden to no one. This is what brought our forefathers to this continent in the first place. This is the rainbow that led them over the Alleghenies, across the plains, and through the mountain passes to California and Oregon. This is the magnet that still draws people to Alaska.”

Today the Matanuska Valley draws worldwide attention for its uniquely orchestrated history and colorful agricultural heritage.


The History of the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project

“A Mighty Nice Place,” The History of the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project, by Helen Hegener, shares the complete history of the planning and establishment of the Matanuska Colony. Published in November, 2016 by Northern Light Media. 276 pages, 120 photos, 6″ x 9″ b/w format. $24.95 plus $5.00 First Class shipping.