Annie Mae Gilley, born in 1899 the eldest daughter of hard working Scotch-Irish coal miners in Roanoke, VA, worked tirelessly to help her widowed father raise her seven siblings. Life was difficult and Annie Mae learned to augment her coal-miner father’s meager wages by taking what the land could offer – berries, fish, and game.
She learned to sew, bake bread, and keep their home clean and functioning efficiently. She met James Carl in 1915, a tall and handsome young seaman. James grew up fishing, hunting, and working in the lumber trade in coastal Washington State. Adventurous and self-sufficient, he joined the Navy prior to WW I, sailed the world, and met Annie Mae while stationed in Norfolk, VA. They married, moved to San Diego, and raised their son Everett. James passed on in 1962, and Annie Mae in 1989.
James and Annie Mae loved the independent, country lifestyle, learned to take what the land offered them, and taught that same spirit to their son. Father and daughters agreed that any tribute befitting Annie Mae would incorporate those components. They agreed that a country inn celebrating the independent country lifestyle Annie Mae and James embraced, owned, operated, and hosted by family members, constituted a lasting and wonderful tribute to Annie Mae.
The Annie Mae Lodge opened its doors in July of 1990 in the small, isolated homesteading community of Gustavus, Alaska, the gateway community to Glacier Bay National Park and home of Richard and Annie Mae’s granddaughter Lesli Sirstad. Set in a field of wildflowers next to the Good River with sumptuous views of the surrounding mountains, the Annie Mae features a comfortable, down home country ambience. Family members contributed to the design and construction of the original 5 room Annie Mae Lodge and its expansion in the mid-1990’s to 11 rooms. Many family members continued to work and manage the Annie Mae through the intervening years.
Today, Lesli owns the Annie Mae, and her youngest daughter Rachel and family manages operations that focus on outdoor activities, home cooked meals, and comfortable, homey guest accommodations. Most employees are family members, embracing the lasting legacy Everett Carl had hoped to create for his mother, Annie Mae Gilley Carl.