There are two different places referred when one commonly speaks of the North Pole, and many people do not realize that they are different. There is the concept of the Geographic North Pole, and Magnetic North Pole.

Geographically speaking, the North Pole is located (quite obviously) at the top of the earth. The region does not have life in the area as does the South Pole, nor does it have underlying land mass. The area is frozen over completely; an entire land or nothing but ice. In many children’s stories, the North Pole is also the home of Santa Claus. When used in casual conversation, the North Pole typically refers to this region.

The Magnetic North Pole lives in the island region above Canada, and depending on where you live in the world is several degrees off from true North. It moves from year to year. To take a compass bearing, you need to correct several degrees to get the right heading. This is not a barrier in modern navigation as most people now use GPS and satellite-based systems to get a more precise reading.

North Pole, Alaska, is a town of 1,570 residents (2000 census) located in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway.

The North Pole area (1,700 miles from the geographic North Pole) was homesteaded in 1944. With the construction of a trading post in the early 1950s, the area came to be called "North Pole" in hopes of attracting toy manufacturers who wanted to be able to mark their products "Made in North Pole." This, unsurprisingly, flopped, but North Pole continued to develop and incorporated as a city in 1953.

As might be expected, the city plays up its theoretical Santa connection. The "Santa Claus House" is a major local attraction, and the North Pole post office (US ZIP code 99705) gets the predictable flood of letters every December. ("Letters from Santa" can be purchased at local gift shops, including the aforementioned Santa Claus House.) One can't go very far in North Pole without seeing street signs bearing holiday-themed names such as Santa Claus Lane, Snowman Lane, Kris Kringle Drive, Blitzen Drive, Saint Nicholas Drive, Mistletoe Drive, and so forth. Christmas-style decorations (candy canes and the like) are also not uncommon. (North Pole High School decided to buck the trend, however, and choose for its mascot the Patriots. Probably because 'the Reindeer' or 'the Elves' were too weird and cheesy.)

All this aside, however, North Pole is a fairly common small town, with major employment at nearby oil refineries and the usual spheres of government, retail, medical, schools, and the like. Others commute into Fairbanks to work. 2000 unemployment was 12.1%, with median per capita income at $21,426.

North Pole is not quite as remote as its namesake, being accessible by road (it's on the way to Fairbanks if you're driving from the Lower 48 or Canada), train from Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Seward on the Alaska Railroad, or air (several major airlines fly into Fairbanks). North Pole is the terminus of the borough MACS bus system's Green Line, if one wanted the strange pleasure of being able to brag about taking a bus to (the) North Pole.

Further information and sites of possible interest:
City of North Pole:
Santa Claus House:
Alaska Dept. of Community and Economic Development, Community Database:
ZipUSA: 99705 (National Geographic, December 2000):
North Pole High School:

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