Old Jesse Lee Home for Children – Kenai Peninsula County, Seward, Alaska
Photograph ©Seward Historic Preservation Commission
Seward, Alaska 99664
In 1890, the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church opened their doors to provide educational services. As time went on the school became a safe haven for unfortunate children. Many of the children that came there were from broken homes or orphaned. Many of the orphaned had lost both of their parents to a widespread flu epidemic. In 1925, the school/orphanage was moved to the outskirts of Seward, where it was home to more than seventy children and at least ten caring employees.
In 1927, one of the Jesse Lee students, Benny Benson, entered a contest to design Alaska’s state flag and he won! Benny was thirteen years old at the time. In August of that same year, Benny’s flag was raised for the first time in the state at the Jesse Lee home.
In 1964, an unexpected earthquake occurred. This is said to be the worst earthquake to take place in the state of Alaska. The Jesse Lee home was hit hard and the school suffered extensive damage. Worse than that, more than a dozen of the children were killed by the natural disaster, leaving sadness in the hearts of all who remained and marking the land with grief.
With most of the school too damaged to use and beyond repair, the Jesse Lee home was then moved to Anchorage where it is now known as the Alaska Children’s Services. However, the old home still stands, broken, battered and empty of life, outside the town of Seward.
The reports of paranormal activity at the old home are uncountable! Many who step onto the old grounds report the feeling of melancholy. The sounds of children giggling can be heard all over the grounds but no living child is ever found to be the source. Others have claimed to hear the sounds of a jump rope tapping on the sidewalk.
Many visitors have reported hearing the sounds of little feet running past them and then the sound of cheering follows, as if these lingering apparitions are still playing the games that they enjoyed in life.
The children’s lives at the Jesse Lee home were good and they were nurtured, happy and well taken care of. I suppose that is why these little souls have made the old home and its grounds their eternal play area.
As for the structure, all hope is not lost. Apparently, several of the children who resided there, as well as, several organizations, are trying to raise the money to refurbish the buildings. Their goal is to turn the old home into a museum so that everyone can learn about its history and enjoyment may still be found there.