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Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Looks At Preservation Needs Of 19th Century Buildings


The YMCA building and associated Meyer Building at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Site are in need of preservation work. NPS photo of YMCA.

Back in 2008 the National Park Service was given two gold-rush era buildings at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Site to help tell the story of one of the greatest prospecting runs in history. Now the agency is mulling what it will take to preserve the Meyer Building and the YMCA building in Skagway, Alaska.

Donated by the Rasmuson Foundation, the buildings don't lack for needs, as a publication recently put together by the park staff notes. The publication also touches on Skagway's Gold Rush history.

Prior to NPS ownership, George Rapuzzi used the buildings for storage and a warehouse for his extensive collection of Skagway artifacts. The National Park Service has been stabilizing both buildings since 2010. The long-term plan is to provide museum exhibits and public access to gold-rush era photographs and documents.

Located on the historically prominent location of Fifth Ave. and State Street, the Meyer building hosted the Arctic Meat Company and the Arctic Telephone Company, owned and operated by Herman Meyer. The same year, 1899, Meyer rented out the northeast corner to the Brown Shoe Company, which sold 500 pairs of shoes in the first week of business.

The adjacent YMCA Gymnasium was the first YMCA in Alaska. Although short-lived as an organization, the group provided recreation and sponsored a camera club and a debate team. The wooden gymnasium provided a gym, baths, and a handball court.The enrollment peaked in 1900 and then dropped as Skagway's population declined. By 1902, the gym was converted to a cold storage facility for the Arctic Meat Company.

The report fully illustrates all architectural elements with condition assessments and contains a summary of restoration work completed. It also contains "concise descriptions of the L Company, 24th Infantry (Colored) troops and the controversy surrounding their (YMCA) membership."

Free copies of the Meyer Building and YMCA historic structures report can be requested by calling Karl Gurcke, Park Historian at 907-983-9214.


Maybe I'm confused, but I thought this park was in Seattle?

They are separately managed but sister parks.

Further clarification about the various units of this park is found here.

In addition to the three units in Alaska (Skagway, White Pass and Chilkoot Trai/ Dyea), "the Seattle park, as well as many sites in Canada and Alaska are all part of the Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park." There's a shared story for all of them.

Summer cruise ship passengers who have most of a day in Skagway will find some interesting things to see and do in that unit of the park if they'll take time to escape from the gift shops on the main drag.

Also, in the Trail Center here we generally have a ranger from Parks Canada to help with the overall experience. Folks who hike the entire Chilkoot - one of the great trails in the NPS - will cross into Canada and passports are required.

Yes, Jim, there are many many way too many gift shops and jewelry stores here but there is so much more available to those who seek it out. In another couple of years the restoration of Soapy Smith's Parlor will be completed as well as the YMCA and other buildings, and each restored building opened to the public will also make available more of the gold rush artifacts out of storage. These are long term projects, but the end results are worth it.

[Yeah - being a local gives me just a bit of civic pride].

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