The City of Ketchikan began in 1883 when a man named Snow erected a salmon saltery. Only two years later, businessmen from Oregon hired a man named Mike Martin to come to the area and investigate the possibilities to erect a salmon cannery on what is now known as Ketchikan Creek.
A short time later Martin and the salmon cannery’s overseer, George Clark, set up a cooperative and opened a salmon saltery and a general store. Just a short two years later, Ketchikan’s population reached 800 and was a major player in the salmon fishery. In 1900, the town of Ketchikan was officially incorporated.
Mining and prospecting enterprises were just starting in the area at that time and Ketchikan became an important trading hub for the area. The population continued to boom as the industry increased production. What is now known as the Historic Creek Street area was once a well-known “red light” district where many of the local mining and fishing entrepreneurs spent their hard-earned money. Today, those same original structures built on wood pilings still stand over the creek and house businesses that cater to both locals and visitors alike.
Mining eventually declined and the fisheries and timber industries took a stride and grew alongside the Ketchikan Spruce Mill in the early 1900s. By 1954, the Ketchikan Pulp Mill was erected at nearby Ward Cove, thus providing local residents with new jobs.
Today the timber industry has taken a backseat and Ketchikan is now focusing its energies on another industry; tourism.