Like most cities in Alaska, the seaside town of Whittier, Alaska, is remote and difficult to access even in the best of conditions. With far-reaching mountains to the north and the Gulf of Alaska to the south, the only way Whittier’s 300 residents can leave is either by boat or by way of a 2.5-mile combined vehicle-railroad tunnel that only operates during certain times of the day.
As small as the town is, its housing infrastructure is even more limited. That’s because every resident of Whittier lives in one of two buildings, a city of Whittier spokesperson told Snopes.
The unique living situation first went viral in May 2021 when CBS News reported that the 14-story Begich Towers apartment building was home to a majority of the town’s residents, a potentially problematic issue given COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine measures. And in June, the Instagram account facts4bright shared a meme that claimed all residents lived in the same building — which is not quite true.
In a phone call with the city of Whittier, Snopes learned that between 80% and 90% of the 300 or so residents live in the 196-apartment Begich Towers, while the remainder of residents live in a second condo building. As such, we rate this claim as “Mostly True.”
Begich Towers has as unique a modern history as does the town of Whittier itself. During World War II, the town was selected by the military as the site for logistical support for the war effort in Alaska. Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel — so named for the man who designed it — provides access to the city from more urban areas like Anchorage and Seward, while a deep-water port allowed large naval ships to access other regions of the state by way of the Gulf of Alaska. To house the newly stationed residents and their families, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed the “Hodge building” in 1943, according to the Begich Towers informational page.
In March of 1974, the “Hodge Building” was officially renamed Begich Towers in remembrance of Congressman Nick Begich after he was killed in a private plane crash two years earlier. At this time, it was also formed into a condominium association that has been operating it since.