City in One Building

Welcome to the weirdest city in Alaska, Whittier. But Whittier is the city that forgot how to city, because it is home to just 220 people, and they all live in one building. Yep, everyone lives in this monolithic tower block of condos. Except this one guy who thinks he’s a badass and lives in a mobile home, right next door. His name is Paul by the way. But Paul aside, this entire city’s residents don’t just live in one building – they go to work, school and do their shopping there too. The 14-story building is called Begich Tower and houses not only residential condos for 220 people, but everything else you need to live. The building contains a police station, two grocery stores, the city offices, an indoor playground, a B&B, a Laundromat, a post office, a health clinic and a school. Okay it doesn’t have a Hooters, so not quite everything you need to live, but close enough. Oh did I forget to mention, there’s also a church in the basement. God knows why it’s in the basement. Residents of Whittier enjoy pure isolation and live mostly off the land, catching fish and other local wildlife. Not only is Whittier encased on all sides by towering mountains and a lake but there is only one road to and from the city which completely closes at night. The road is a single lane tunnel through a mountain that only goes one way at a time; the direction of the road changes at specific times throughout the day. On the plus side, crime rates are low, since thieves have to wait for the road to change direction before making their grand getaway, which is awfully inconvenient. Whittier poses a strange dichotomy – with its extreme isolation and low population you would think it’s a place for loners and introverts, the kind of place where your weird cousin Kevin might emigrate too and you never see him again. But on the other hand you couldn’t move to a more interactive, social environment than Whittier; you are literally living underneath, on top of and next to the entire city’s population. You better hope you get on with your neighbours, because they never bloody change. Residents regularly shuffle around the building’s many public hallways and rooms in their pajamas and underwear, bestowed with an unusual level of comfort and familiarity with their neighbours. If school students get stuck with their homework they simply knock on the teacher’s door for help, after all, she only lives down the hall. But there’s a damn good reason these residents have everything they need in one building and rarely set foot outdoors, at least in the winter… because the entire place is trying to kill you. During the harsh winter months Whittier is encased in a metre of snow, and being on the waterfront in are-you-sure-you-want-to-go-outside Alaska, it’s constantly blasted by 60 mph winds and because it’s seriously-though-there’s-bears-out-there Alasaka there are lots of bears about. This is the reason the children’s playground is indoors and school kids have to pass through an underground tunnel to go to school, which is in a building adjacent to Begich Tower, connected only by this passageway. Just try telling the people of Whittier that winter is coming, trust me, they know. There’s even an indoor vegetable garden maintained by the school kids to provide sustenance through the winter. The vegetables are grown using hydroponic equipment donated by the police after they seized it during a drugs raid. Here you go kids grow some herbs. It only takes a smart kid with access to the internet to realize they have everything they need to start a pot farm. So you’ve got to ask the question, why do these people do it, apart from amazing views and the occasional rooftop barbeque? Well most of these people didn’t move here out of choice, they simply found themselves living in Whittier, out of circumstance. You see Whittier was built during World War II as a military facility for the United States Army. They wanted a base somewhere secluded and protected by the mountains, well congratulations, you found it. Begich Tower was built as barracks to house the military. The location was owned by the government until 1969, when it was given to the residents and officially became a city. The people who live there now are simply the remnants of the military base that once was, the descendants of soldiers and workers who resided there. There isn’t much demand for property in Whittier from outsiders and the population is slowly decreasing every year. It does draw a huge tourist trade during the summer months though, because of it’s peculiarity and natural beauty. If you intend to visit Whittier, you better do so fast before Begich Tower bids its final farewell, much to the dismay of its loyal 220 residents. Except Paul, he doesn’t care, he’s got his mobile home.

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