Crown Jewel of APA's Diamond Canneries
"The NN Cannery History Projects calls attention to the vital cannery workers, and tells the human story of the industry...I believe this project is ground-breaking and important."
Joan M. Antonson | State Historian/Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer
The <NN> Cannery is situated on the south-side of the Naknek River, one of the five major rivers that constitute the Bristol Bay salmon fishery—Alaska’s largest and most sustainable commercial fishery. Built originally in 1890 as a saltery by the Arctic Packing Company, the property was absorbed by the Alaska Packers Association (APA), and converted into a salmon cannery in 1895.
For over a century, APA’s <NN> Cannery served as the centerpiece of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. Because the facility functioned almost continuously between 1895 and 2015, it has maintained architectural and cultural integrity, and remains one of the most historically significant remnants of the industry on the West Coast. APA dominated Alaska’s salmon market, accounting for 70% of the total salmon pack. As one expert put it, “Canneries transformed this entire area and represent the Industrial Revolution of the North.”
APA assigned the cannery the initials, NN, possibly for NakNek, and drew a diamond around the cannery abbreviations—hence, APA’s well-known trademark: “the diamond canneries.” The cannery functioned almost continually between 1895 and 2015. Most of the existing structures were built or upgraded in the 1940s, (making them at least 70 years or older). The complex’s design and function serves as an excellent representation of a typical salmon cannery, and reflects a broad range of historic contexts: corporate, technological, economic, social, cultural and environmental.
The work and ancillary activities that took places within the cannery’s 50-plus structures—several of which are recognized to be historically significant in their own right—affected local, state, national, even global activities and people. The <NN> Cannery employed hundreds of residents and thousands of transient workers who produced more
canned salmon than any cannery in Alaska. Over time, these cannery people developed unique identities and stories, which today remain little known or understood. The NN Cannery History Project aims to shed light on the lives of the cannery people and why they matter today.