The Parks Highway Igloo’s being renovated to sell booze

the Parks Highway Igloo
The Parks Highway Igloo, midway between Anchorage and Fairbanks, in 2021. (Emily Schwing/Alaska Public Media)

The Parks Highway architectural curiosity known as the Igloo is the planned location for a new distillery.

Shirley Schmidt said she and her uncle are leasing the three-story wood-frame, foam-coated dome south of Cantwell near Mile 188 of the Parks. Schmidt describes a two-stage plan, starting with rebuilding an old convenience store next to the Igloo.

“Starting with the distillery in there to get it up and running and manufacturing throughout the winter, and throughout the winter while the booze is being made and aging, we’re gonna do work on the inside of the Igloo,” Schmidt said. “So potentially we’d like to get everything from the convenience store over into the Igloo the distillery on one half, and then on the other half of the bottom floor we’re gonna put a restaurant and bar/tasting room.”

According to a 2021 Anchorage Daily News history of the Igloo, Leon Smith started building it as a hotel in 1970s, but never completed the interior and eventually sold it to Brad Fisher. Fisher ran a gas station on the property until 2010 and decided to sell it a few years ago.

“It’s not for sale anymore,” Schmidt said. “We don’t own it, but we are leasing it from the Fisher family, with plans to own it.” 

The property has suffered from being unoccupied for more than a decade, which means Schmidt’s currently focused on repairs.

“From all the destruction over the years and vandalism, it’s gonna be cleanup for a little bit,” she said.

Schmidt emphasizes that the structure is intact, praising the craftsmanship of its circular framing.

wooden framing
Elaborate wooden framing supports the circular structure of the Igloo. (Courtesy Shirley Schmidt)

“You’re actually blown away when you walk in because just the way that it looks outside right now, you think: ‘What a dump hole,’” she said. “But when you walk inside, it’s a masterpiece.”

The Schmidts have no near-term plans for the upper two stories of the Igloo, due to fire code issues.

“Probably just keep it lit up so when you walk in the middle, you can look up and see up all the floors, see the genius behind the framework,” she said.

As far as the distilling goes Schmidt says her uncle, who recently relocated to Alaska from Outside, has a lot of experience.

“My uncle is head distiller and he’s using a recipe that was a family recipe since the Prohibition era: bourbons, whiskeys, brandies,” she said.

They’re calling the business the Wolf Dog Distillery. In the meantime, Schmidt says they’re trying to get word out about their plan for the Igloo – in part to dissuade any additional trespassing, theft and vandalism while they rehabilitate the property.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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