The town of Whittier, Alaska, has roughly 200 residents, and nearly all of them live in a single building, a 14-story former Army barracks on the edge of town. It's a fascinating alternative to the village of tiny houses we might expect in a picturesque northern town.

Whittier is a popular tourist destination, especially in the summer when the town receives 22 hours of daylight. Contrasted against the beauty of Whittier harbor - which sees cruise ships and commercial fishing boats - and the surrounding mountains is the function-over-form of Begich Towers, which most of the town's residents call home. The building contains a police station, church, laundromat, grocery store, bed and breakfast, and health clinic. The only playground is indoors. The school, which also houses the town's gym and weight room, is connect to the Towers by an underground tunnel. (That's particularly helpful since the town receives 250 inches of snow in a typical winter.)

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While the harbor fills up during the summer months, the only other way to reach Whittier is by a tunnel through the mountains. The tunnel only goes one way at a time, and it closes at night. Between the isolation and the harsh winters, life in Whittier is confined to Begich Towers during the colder, darker months. The town is an intimate place, where one's neighbors are rarely more than a few floors away.

Up top you can watch an interview with Whittier schoolteacher Erika Thompson from PBS' Indie Alaska series. You can also read more about the town over at NPR and see a photo essay on the town at the California Sunday Magazine.

[via Twisted Sifter]