When the creator of this hotel began his work, no one could understand why one would build a hotel that looked like an igloo in the remote wilderness of Alaska. It sits nearly dead center between Anchorage and Fairbanks, two of the largest cities in the 49th state. This monolith of an igloo in rural Alaska is a passion project for one man who began working on it in the 1970s, hoping to create a destination hotel that would bring joy to thousands of tourists looking for a unique lodging experience. When asked why he would build his hotel in Alaska, the owner said in response,”You wouldn’t put an igloo hotel in Kansas or Egypt, would you?”
Leon Smith began work on his personal masterpiece in the late 1960s, when he noticed his remote part of Alaska was hemorrhaging businesses and hotels to service the hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. He decided to build his own destination hotel, envisioned with 48 guest rooms, a bar, restaurant, gift shop and spa, with a special top-floor suite reserved for him and his family. So he cleared land nearby the gas station he owned and set to work, buying his own building materials and, of course, enough polyurethane foam to create the snowy exoskeleton. Smith expected to be able to hold a grand opening in the summer of 1973, but the hotel remained unfinished.
Named “Igloo City,” the structure is so large, it can be seen by airplanes flying over 30,000 feet in the air. Its footprint is massive, and the four-story high building sits looming on the flat land surrounding it, windows dotting every floor of the circular, aptly named, Igloo south of Denali National Park. Construction stopped on the hotel in the late 1970s, when the structure could not meet building code requirements, particularly the undersized windows installed throughout the Igloo. Smith was undeterred and continued construction, slowly, all the way to the 1990s.
Smith would sell the property not long after, hoping someone else might be able to renovate the hotel and finally open it for business. A multitude of owners tried and failed, and finally the Igloo was left abandoned on the side of the highway as more of a curious roadside structure than an opulent hotel with views of Denali. Its abandonment left it wide open for urban explorers (well, not so urban in this case) and the inside of the hotel is now covered in graffiti and parts of the construction are in such disrepair that it’s unlikely the igloo will ever be opened to the public.
Today, the hotel is still abandoned, its doors are boarded up and the nearby RV park and gas station have also been closed indefinitely. Now, only the unfinished hotel itself sits, left behind and crumbling away in certain parts of the building. It’s not advised to enter, but you certainly wouldn’t be the only one. The stories of its hauntings are chilling enough to keep some explorers away.
Visitors report odd occurrences, specifically the presence of lights turning on and off, despite the lack of electricity in the hotel. Some will pass by at night and swear the hotel was lit up completely, as if finally opening for business, but when they drove back to check, all the lights would suddenly be out. Visitors to the hotel have said they see a woman dressed in white looking out of upper windows, backlit by the impossible light mentioned before.
The truth of its haunting is unknown, but the eeriness of the abandoned building certainly will give some visitors the creeps. Until someone gets the money together to finally turn it into the hotel it was meant to be, the shell of Leon Smith’s dream still remains, decaying on the Alaskan highway between Fairbanks and Anchorage.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.