Spoiler Alert! You’re in a National Park!
Many tourists get off of their cruise ships in Skagway ready to ride the train, see a bear, or ask how much the shuttle to town costs. Almost all of them are blissfully unaware that they have just arrived somewhere truly special. When they walk in the tour booth, we like to ask each tourist, “Did you know that you are in a National Park?” They almost always respond with a “no,” and that’s when we say…
“Spoiler Alert! You are in a National Park!”
The Railroad Building. Lovingly restored by the Park Service. Spoiler Alert! It’s in Skagway.
Yes, it’s true. The best parts of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park are located in Skagway. As you walk up and down Broadway in search of the perfect refrigerator magnet to take home to your Uncle Stu, you will see numerous structures that are preserved by the hard-working people at the Park. Let’s take a closer look a few of them.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Train Depot is one of Downtown Skagway’s most visited buildings. Construction on the railroad began in May of 1898, and the depot was built soon after. The building fell into disrepair over the years because people just don’t take care of things like they used to. In 1979 the Park Service stepped in and restored the building at a cost of $1.6 million, which is chump-change compared to what it would cost today. Today, the building is considered one of the most important from the Gold Rush period. How about that!
Jeff. Smiths Parlor is yet another building that was restored by the park. Back during the Gold Rush, it was evil Soapy Smith’s bar, where his henchmen got schnockered on hooch before committing all sorts of heinous acts. Today it is a museum with some quirky commemorative pieces. If you’ve ever wanted to see a deformed moose with glowing red light bulbs for eyes, you are in luck!
The Red Front Building was called the Hotel Rosalie in 1897, and it was built to house businessmen who were eager to make their fortune when the stampede began. The building eventually became a bar called the Pantheon, but during prohibition, it was closed because some people just don’t know how to have any fun. It was eventually demolished because it was a fire hazard. The Park Service was unwilling to allow a trivial fact like the building not existing anymore to prevent restoration efforts, so they totally rebuilt it! Thank the good lord above, because today the Red Front Building houses a jewelry store that sells quality tanzanite jewelry to tourists seeking something truly Alaskan.
There’s plenty more park where that came from
You can walk down Broadway until your feet fall off, but you still haven’t seen all of the Park. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is comprised of 4 units. To see them all, you’re going to have to quit fooling around.
Skagway Unit – This is the part in we already talked about. Spoiler Alert! It’s in Skagway.
White Pass Trail Unit – This is one of the trails that miners used to reach the Yukon. Eventually, the train was built here so that cruise ships would have a reason to bring tourists to Skagway.
Dyea Townsite and Chilkoot Trail Unit – Dyea is part of the Skagway Borough, but was its own city back during the Gold Rush. Miners used the Chilkoot Trail to reach the Yukon, but when the train was built everyone agreed that walking sucks and they took the train.
Not shown: 50 Cent and G Unit.
Seattle Unit – This is located in the Pioneer Square National Historic District because the Park Service loves ridiculously long names.
Special Bonus Unit – International Park – The Canadian government worked with the US government to create a Canadian section for the park that includes parts of the Chilkoot Trail and Dawson City. Every year this relationship is solidified at a ceremony where Canadian poutine is exchanged for some Alaskan smoked salmon.
There you have it. Consider yourself thoroughly spoiled! Now when you walk through Skagway, you won’t just be looking at buildings. You’ll be looking at HISTORIC buildings. Thank you, Park Service!