palmer worm

Palmer, Alaska

Palmer is a city in and the borough seat of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is part of the Anchorage Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city was 4,533. 2005 Census Bureau estimates give the city a population of 6,920.


Palmer is located at (61.601879, -149.117351).

Palmer is 68 km (42 miles) northeast of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. This community of one of two towns in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, a region that grew dramatically in the past decade; Borough officials estimate the local population at 80,000.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.8 square miles (9.7 km²), all of it land.


As of the census of 2000, there were 4,533 people, 1,472 households, and 1,058 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,206.3 people per square mile (465.5/km²). There were 1,555 housing units at an average density of 413.8/sq mi (159.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 80.94% White, 2.05% Black or African American, 8.18% Native American, 1.06% Asian, 0.33% Pacific Islander, 1.15% from other races, and 6.29% from two or more races. 3.51% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14.9% were of German, 10.5% United States or American, 8.9% Irish and 8.7% English ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 1,472 households out of which 47.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.3% were married couples living together, 16.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.1% were non-families. 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.81 and the average family size was 3.29.

In the city the population was spread out with 33.6% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 16.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $45,571, and the median income for a family was $53,164. Males had a median income of $44,716 versus $25,221 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,203. About 6.0% of families and 12.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.6% of those under age 18 and 4.2% of those age 65 or over.

Population of Palmer
Year Population
1960 1,200
1970 1,100
1980 2,100
1990 2,900
2000 4,500


Palmer began in 1916 as a railway station on the Matanuska branch of the Alaska Railroad largely to serve coal mines in the Jonesville/Sutton area northeast of Palmer. In 1935, during the Great Depression, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal projects, established the Matanuska Colony. From Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, 203 families traveled by train and ship to reach the fledgling colony, arriving in the summer of 1935. Upon their arrival they were housed in a tent city during their first Alaskan summer. Each family drew lots for 40 acre tracts and their farming adventure began in earnest. The failure rate was high, but many of their descendants still live in the area and there are still many operating farms in the Palmer area, including Vanderwheele and Wolverine farms.

In addition to an agrarian heritage, the colony families brought with them Midwest America's small-town values, institutional structures, and a well-planned city center reminiscent of their old hometowns in Minnesota. Many of the structures built are now in a nationally recognized historic district. Construction of the statewide road system and the rapid development of Anchorage has fueled growth around Palmer. Many Palmer residents commute 45 minutes to work in Anchorage.

Points of Interest

Palmer is most noted in Alaska as the location of the annual Alaska State Fair, where Palmer's agricultural spirit lives on. The Alaska State Fair holds contests for largest vegetable in several categories, and many national and even world records have been recorded at the fair, with the cabbage, radish, spinach and lettuce categories usually dominating local interest. In 2008, Scott Robb of Palmer won 1st place and a $2,000 prize for his 79.1 lb cabbage.

Palmer hosts an historic log cabin Visitor Center in the heart of downtown that entertains more than 35,000 visitors each year. The visitor center has a two acre showcase garden and lawn that is the "perfect place to have a picnic." The Palmer Museum of History and Art is located in the Visitor Center and offers visitors chance to view artifacts from Palmer's history and learn about how the town came to be.

A couple of blocks away from the visitor center is the United Protestant Church. It was built in 1936-37 and is one of the historically registered original colonial buildings in Palmer. There are also several bookstores, including Alaskana Books, which carries a collection of rare and collectible Alaskana books, and Fireside Books, a quirky little independent bookstore, known for its good books and ugly coffee.

Alaska Raceway Park is a nearby dragstrip.

The Mat-Su Miners, a franchise in the Alaska Baseball League, a high-level summer collegiate baseball league, play their games at Herman Brothers Field in Palmer. With Division I collegiate players from all over the United States, the Miners have twice captured the coveted National Baseball Congress championship, in 1987 and 1997.

Palmer is also home to many public and private schools, such as Palmer High.



  • Matanuska Valley Memoir: The Story of How One Alaskan Community Developed, by Hugh A. Johnson and Keith L. Stanton. Bulletin 18, 3rd edition, 1980. Originally published July 1955. Alaska Agricultural Experiment Station: Palmer, Alaska.

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