About the Building

The Jesse Lee Home, begun by the Methodist Church, had its beginnings as an orphanage in Unalaska in 1890. The Jesse Lee Home (JLH) was to moved Seward in 1924 where it was run as a residential school.

It grew to include several buildings on a 100 acre site.



Many Alaskan children were displaced by the tuberculosis and influenza epidemics.  For nearly forty years, the JLH provided a safe place for youth with the notable distinction of educating and nurturing without regard to race - something unheard of in this period of our nation's history.  The JLH offered housing, education, and health care to resident children until 1964 when it was closed after the Good Friday earthquake. Goode Hall, one of the original dormitories, was demolished after the children were moved to Anchorage to become part of Alaska Children's Services.



The American Legion of Alaska sponsored a competition in 1927 among Alaska's school children to design the state's flag.  A 13 year old boy named Benny Benson, a student at the Jesse Lee Home, submitted the winning flag design. The original flag was sewn at the JLH by Fannie Kearns, an Alaska Native woman. On July 9, 1927, Alaska's flag was raised for the first time with the opening of the Balto building. Benny Benson and his design for Alaska's flag are a source of pride for the Alaska Native community and all Alaskans.

This historic event was an empowering benchmark for the Alaska Native rights movement.

Today, July 9th is still commemorated as Alaska Flag Day.


Among the Jesse Lee Home's more famous residents were Benny Benson, designer of Alaska's flag; Peter Gordon Gould, founder of Alaska Methodist University; Simeon Oliver, pianist, composer, and writer, and Alaska Native activist and leader Billy Blackjack Johnson.

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