Every spring Parks Canada opens a few of Dawson City’s historical buildings for a “Doors Open Dawson” event.
This year there was only one new one to me, but I visited all of them anyway.
Billy Bigg’s Blacksmith Shop
I’ve walked by Billy Bigg’s blacksmith shop so many times and always wondered what was inside. And now I know! The answer is just about nothing!
The interpretive sign reads: “This building stands as a testament to the way frontier business changed and adapted to new realities. It began life in 1899 as a two storey Great Northern Hotel, to serve the needs of a rapidly growing population. By 1907, as the population settled, it was converted into a blacksmith shop. In 1913, with the increasing mechanization of mining, a machine shop was added. Each change in business came with an addition to the building. In the 1940’s then – owner Billy Biggs removed the unused second floor.”
Here you can see along the side to see the series of additions that was tacked onto the rear of the building.
Here is the south side:
Inside, the first thing you notice is all the internal framework timbers that have been added to stabilize the building. Since the building sits in water in early spring, the entire building was raised at some point. If it ever had a wooden floor, it is long gone.
A walkway has been added down the centre of the building. On the ceiling, old remnants of the blacksmith shop are evident. There are belts and stove pipes and old metal bracing.
Inside of the north facing wall.
The Parks Canada interpreter said this blacksmith shop made plenty of horseshoes and nails for out in the gold fields. Here’s a dusty old horse shoe! A few more you can see in the above photo on the closest beam.
The additions don’t even seem to be attached to each other, not on this wall anyway.
I visited Ruby’s Place back in 2013 for the Doors Open Dawson event. It was significantly damaged by the flood here in 1979 and the building was gutted.
From the sign, “Opened as a boarding house and laundry in 1903, the building was taken over by Mathilde “Ruby” Scott in 1935. For 27 years, this former Paris Madame operated a brothel here, finding a ready clientele in the seasonal workers from the gold dredge camps. She operated with the tacit approve of local officials until 1961. With both gold mining and her business in decline, Ruby was charged with keeping a bawdy house. Reluctant to face more charges, for the next 8 years until her retirement, Ruby’s was simply a boarding house once more.”
Most of these pictures I took before, because it rather small inside and you can’t get upstairs, maybe due to a big section of the upstairs floor missing, so there isn’t much to look at. Seeing all the layers of wallpaper and wall coverings is really neat though:
The ceilings are really high in here.
I was hoping there was going to be more to see here, but it was just the historical exhibit in the main area of the main floor, that is open all summer.
The sign reads “Like other grocers at the turn of the century, William Harrington provided a cosmopolitan clientele with every conceivable foodstuff, from beans to truffles. This was made possible by the coincidence of improved transportation systems with new food storage technologies, such as evaporation, canning, and artificial cold storage. Linked to the rest of the world during summer by steamer and rail, Dawson City merchants provided perishable foods year round, all at a price 2 to 3 times higher than “outside”. “
I wonder what’s upstairs!?
The Old Post Office
This beautiful old building was designed by Thomas W. Fuller and built in 1901. It is a large, wooden building that is just so classy inside. It was only used a few years though, because it was a beast to heat in the winter!
Were the D and C on the mailboxes really designed for “Dawson City”? Turns out, no, they weren’t. It stands for “Dominion of Canada”.
Klondike Thawing Machine Company Building
This building holds one of the environmental controlled archives for Parks Canada. We were in here before, but I heard they had pulled out a few new items that were found in the old courthouse while it was undergoing recent work.
When I first walked in the door, a parks interpreter discovered one of the many paintings stored here has an “A.Y. Jackson” signature in the corner! One of the Group of Seven! Looks like his “Maple And Birches”.
Happy May long weekend!