Tagged with " dawson attractions"
Jun 12, 2010 -

The Jack London Cabin

Dick North, a Yukon historian now based in Whitehorse, can be credited for finding the facts about novelist Jack London’s year in the Klondike. There has been so much myth and conjecture, but he found irrefutable pieces of evidence that form a picture of the year that served as a catalyst for London’s writing career.

Jack London was born into desperate poverty in Oakland, California. He laboured part-time as a child until he left school at 14 to work sixteen to eighteen hour days, seven days a week, at a pickle factory. When he’d had enough of that, he became an able bodied seaman and traveled to the most far flung corners of the world.

When news came to the outside world in 1897 that there was gold in the Klondike, London was ripe for adventure. He headed north with his brother-in-law, their outfit financed by London’s step-sister. London came over the Chilkoot Trail in August 1897, a year ahead of the column of people who would eventually make it to the gold fields.

Dick North found, while searching through archives, a photo of a group at Sheep Camp and by identifying each person in the photo he was able to identify Jack London. This photo is the only known photo of London not only on the Chilkoot, but in the north.

London made it to the Klondike and staked a claim at Henderson Creek, this fact supported by a document found by north: Jack London’s claim registration, dated October 1897 and signed in Dawson City!

While London was only in the north for a year, forced out by scurvy, it proved to be a transformative experience for him and inspired him to write many novels, the most famous of which is Call of the Wild. He sold the rights to this book to MacMillan publishing for a few thousand dollars. This book has not been out of print since and contributed to making MacMillan the powerhouse publisher that it is today.

As if the Sheep Camp photo and claim registration documents weren’t enough, Dick North found his holy grail: one of the cabins Jack London stayed in during his long, dark Klondike winter. This cabin was identified in two ways. The first is that it is described in perfect detail in one of London’s books. The second is a piece of graffiti: London’s signature in pencil scrawled on the inside of a wall.

The cabin was falling to ruin and at risk of getting lost in the wilderness. Funds to rescue it were hard to find, but when the city of Oakland got wind of North’s discovery it offered to finance the rescue on the condition that the cabin be brought to Oakland for display in their Jack London Square.

North decided that this wouldn’t do and he had a crazy, but rather brilliant, idea: split the cabin in two. There are now two Jack London cabins to be seen, one in Dawson, Yukon, and one in Oakland, California. The Dawson cabin’s bottom half is original while the top is a reproduction. The reverse is true for the one in Oakland!

Next to the cabin in Dawson is a bear proof food cache and a newer building that houses pictures and documents related to London’s life.

This excellent exhibit and talk from the Klondike Valley Association come with a $5 admission fee, but it’s only $2.50 upon presentation of an entrance coupon from Diamond Tooth Gerties.

Before I share pictures, here is a quote from Jack London that echoes something I said last summer about my own Klondike experience:

It was in the Klondike I found myself. There nobody talks. Everybody thinks. You get your true perspective. I got mine.

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Jun 11, 2010 -

Dawson City Walking Tour With Costumed Interpreter

This post is part of what is now a series about the Parks Canada,  Klondike Visitors Association, and independent attractions in and around Dawson City. I did several things last year, so just follow this link see the whole list of posts in the series.

I had a full day this overcast and cool Friday, and covered four attractions, posts for which will follow over the next few days. I’ll start off with the Dawson City walking tour led by a Parks Canada costumed interpreter.

This 90 minute tour covers only a tiny portion of downtown Dawson, pretty much just two blocks square, and doesn’t touch on three quarters of the subjects I would have expected it to cover. It is a great tour that, to my immense delight, took us into buildings I thought were just façades.

The tour starts at the Palace Grand Theatre, but doesn’t go into any details about it.

The Palace Grand today is where you can buy tickets for the Parks Canada attractions as well as a ‘Pick-a-Pack’, which gives you access to three attractions for the price of two. There will be a big shingding there tomorrow, with ladies in gowns and men in tuxes, an annual event known as the Commissioner’s Ball.

Our first stop was Lowe’s Mortuary where we learned about the different ways folks made their fortune in Dawson, from placer mining to saloon keeping to prostitution. One fact that I learned was that before the cold came, an estimate was made of how many people might die over the winter and that many graves were dug before the ground froze!

this furniture maker diversified to include a line of caskets

Next stop was the Bank of British North America.

This was the first bank to operate in Dawson, starting business in a tent in 1897. Today, the only bank in Dawson is a CIBC, across the street on 2nd avenue. As a bonus, you can see in the background the original CIBC bank where Robert Service worked.

Going into this building was neat since I walk by it so many times in an average week.

inside the Bank of British North America

The next stop was Ruby’s Place, the site of the last brothel in Dawson, which shut down in the 1960’s!

Behind the brothel is a row of little cabins:

these 'cribs' are from the Gold Rush era and were the 'offices' of ladies of the night

Imagine an alley lined with these things, all holding a girl plying the oldest trade in history.

Rather than outlaw prostitution, the Northwest Mounted Police regulated the profession, requiring the women to have monthly checkup. They would have to present their ‘clean bill of health certificate’ upon request and they would be fined or even expelled from town if they did not have it.

The next stop was my favourite simply because I’ve always thought that this was a building with a great front and that it’s a shame that there’s nothing inside. Joke was on me!

inside the Red Feather Saloon

This building housed several saloons. The Red Feather Saloon was the last one and the name on the building when it was taken over by Parks Canada. However, the inside was modeled on an earlier saloon, the Hub, simply because it’s the only one for which a picture of the inside remains. Note that gambling was outlawed in Dawson in the early 1900’s, so the only games played in the Red Feather Saloon were of the pleasure variety, such as cribbage.

The final stop on the walking tour was the original 1898 post office.

exterior of the original 1898 post office

inside the original 1898 post office

The arrival of a post office and bank in Dawson confirmed its identity as a proper town that would not simply fade into history the way so many other gold rush towns, such as Dyea, did. There was a time when Dawson was a major city of 30,000 souls, one that got electricity and telephone service well ahead of what are now major North American cities. Today, it is a shadow of its former self, but it is still a thriving community and one that is not likely to fade quietly into non-existence.

The tour over, I headed across the street to the current post office, down to Front Street to the Riverwest Café for a sandwich to eat later, and then I hoofed it up to Writer’s Row, 8th Avenue, to learn all about two of the three famous authors associated with Dawson, and see the home of the third. To be continued… 🙂

Check out the gallery for more pictures from the walking tour:

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Jun 2, 2010 -

Pictures from Diamond Tooth Gerties!

I brought my camera to town tonight in hopes of getting a shot of some of the stars staying in town, but it was for naught. I had to settle for Owen Wilson brushing by me too quickly for me to get a picture. Ah, sucks to be me. 😀

After that excitement and a pint, my friends and I headed over to Gerties where I got some decent shots for once!

These are from the 10:30 show. The lady in orange is ‘Gertie’, but not the one I normally rave about. This is the first time I’ve met ‘the other Gertie’, who takes over on Amy’s nights off. She was quite good, but I feel disloyal saying too many nice things about her. 😀

The pics are from various moments in the show. You can see the swirly, multi-coloured skirts and kicking legs in the first few shots as well as some of the tap dancing routine. One of the highlights of the show is when they bring a male audience on stage and make him do a little song and dance. In this case, it was “There was a farmer who had a dog and poker was his name-o. P-O-K-E-R!” with the guy having to play a variety of instruments in tune. As a reward, he was inducted into the coveted Order of the Garter. The guy walking around the audience is ‘Spencer Doorman’, who is ‘discovered’ by Gertie in the 8:30 show.

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