TikToker describes life in Whittier – the town where ‘everyone lives in the same building’

<p>TikToker Jenessa has offered an insight into her life in the Alaskan town of Whittier</p>

TikToker Jenessa has offered an insight into her life in the Alaskan town of Whittier


Living in a tight-knit community is great, but how would you feel about sharing a stairwell with almost everyone in your town?

Just ask residents of Whittier, Alaska, where 80 per cent of the population live under one roof and temperatures can drop to -12C in winter.

Their home is a 14-storey former army barracks called Begich Towers, which also houses a health clinic, police station and convenience store.

For anyone struggling to imagine how they would cope with such a set up, TikTok user Jenessa (@messy.nessy) has offered an insight into what daily life in the town is like.

Responding to a video in which a dumbfounded fellow TikToker announces: “There’s a town where everybody lives in the same building,” Jenessa said: “Um, I currently live in that building.”

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Then, offering a glimpse at the view from her window, she continued: “In this building there’s a post office, a church, a store and a building office. In the basement of this building, we have a tunnel that runs from this building to the school across the street.

“There’s currently 318 people that live here year-round.”

In a series of follow-up clips, the young Whittier local addressed the streams of questions about her situation.

She also offered a whistlestop tour of the town, where she’s lived for seven years, pointing out the school camp ground, fish-processing plant, a restaurant and other attractions.

Providing a brief overview of the settlement’s history, she said: “Whittier has been around since the 1940s, it was built around World War Two and it was a military bunker.”

She continued: “After WWII many people left, but we still had a large population up until the 1964 earthquake. Whittier had a lot of damage after the earthquake, so many people left. One of the buildings here which was military housing was abandoned."

Jenessa toured the town showing off some of the sights

She explained why nearly all the town’s residents live in the tower block (also know as the BTI building), saying: "There are no houses here because you can’t buy any property because most of it is owned by the railroad. So that’s why everyone lives in one building, because you cannot buy property to build a house.

"You can own your own apartment in this building, or you can rent from someone. But mostly everyone owns their own apartment. We do however have to pay monthly dues, but that also includes water, electricity, things like that."

The unique situation means that there are few young people around: Jenessa’s best friend lives one floor above her, and there are only about 18 other inhabitants who are their age.

She admitted that this doesn’t exactly make for great romantic prospects.

"Nobody really dates here because we all grew up together so that would be kind of weird," she said.

Jenessa insisted life in the town wasn’t ‘depressing’

Jenessa’s videos have racked up more than 20 million views between them, with viewers fascinated to learn more about the snow-capped town.

The TikToker has also had to laugh off suggestions that she looks “depressed”, insisting there is plenty to do in the area to keep her and her fellow residents occupied:

“Whittier’s a really pretty place,” she said while walking across the icy landscape. “It’s an hour from Anchorage which is the biggest city in Alaska, so it’s really not that hard to go to the movies,” she explained.

“In the summer there’s lots of things you can do – you can go on a boat, you can go hiking, you can go fishing, go jet-skiing, go on a glacier tour; so many things.”

“It’s really not that sad,” she added, smiling.

We’d be up for a visit any day.

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