An Explorer's Guide to Whitehorse, Yukon
The article and photographs below have been copied from the 80-page booklet "All-Year Round Guide to the Yukon", which was compiled and published for The Kiwanis Club of Whitehorse by Horace E. Moore of The Whitehorse Star in 1947. We have done a high-resolution scan of the booklet, and it can be downloaded from our Public folder at Dropbox by clicking on the cover image to the right (pdf, 24MB).
This article takes you for a walking tour of downtown Whitehorse, describing the buildings and the people involved.
HAVING ENJOYED all the comforts of home and congenial surroundings at the Whitehorse Inn, a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast at the Inn Cafe, let's spend the morning visiting the stores and business houses in town, become acquainted at first-hand with the townspeople and visit the points of interest, bearing in mind that this article is offered as a substitute for a personally-conducted tour of the town.
We first visit the local branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce of which Mr. A. E. Hardy is the manager. It was here that Robert Service was employed as a teller and where he wrote his first poems and "Trail of '98", which were to bring him both fame and fortune. During the construction of the Alaska Highway, when anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 U.S. personnel "moved in" to carry out one of the greatest engineering feats of modern times, the bank premises were extended and a largely augmented staff worked all hours of the day and night to meet the situation. A portion of the premises, on Main Street, are now used by Mr. W. E. Emery, the mining recorder for this southern section of the Territory. Next door is the Yukon Taxi where, if you care to drop in, you may meet Mr. Clyde Wann who operated the first commercial air service in the Yukon. Next in line, travelling westward, is located the Whitehorse Star, which, from the same location, has been serving the community for the past 47 years. If you care to step inside you will observe a modern printing plant at which, during the construction of the Alaska Highway, a large proportion of the printed forms used in connection with the undertaking were turned out by the thousands with clock-like regularity. It might also be stated, in passing, that in 1942 the Whitehorse Star was awarded the Charters Cup in open competition throughout Canada for weekly newspapers - the only time up to the present it has ever been awarded to a western publication. The Fashion Shoppe is hard by where Mrs. Burke operates a thriving business in serving the needs of the community.
The ball park, between Third and Fourth Avenues, has been the favourite stamping ground for all sports events for many years past. There also stood at one time, the old community hall operated by the North Star Athletic Association; a veritable landmark if ever there was one. Unfortunately this edifice was destroyed by fire a few years ago, whilst occupied by the U.S. Army for hospital purposes. The old curling rink is the only portion now standing and its days are now numbered. In the near future a new federal building is to be erected on the ball park to house a new post office, customs department and other federal offices at present located in various parts of the town.
On the west end of the ball park is Fourth Avenue. Turning northwards a couple of blocks, you come to Sacred Heart Church of which Father J. L. Caron is Rector. An article on this sacred edifice will be found on page 54 of this guide. Retracing your steps to Main Street and then proceeding southward along Fourth Avenue, you will observe the Hi-way Cafe at the junction of Fourth and Main and the up-to-date Whitehorse Meat Market, which was opened a short time ago. A little further on you come to the headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, of which Inspector Howard Cronkite is the officer commanding. (The Town Detachment is located on First Avenue). A few blocks further on is located the Staff House of Canadian Pacific Air Lines Ltd. (C.P.A.) and another block further southward, the headquarters of the Northwest Highway System, Brig-General Geoffrey Walsh, C.B.E., D.S.O., Commanding Officer.
Retracing your steps toward and one block before reaching Main Street, is Elliott Street. Proceeding down it you come first to the Parish Hall, where many community functions are held, and then The Old Log Church and rectory of which Rev. Canon L. G. Chappell, L.Th. is the Rector. At one time Robert Service was Clerk to the Vestry during his sojourn in Whitehorse. During the tourist season the Rector delivers a very interesting illustrated lecture on the Yukon in the Parish Hall.
Opposite the church stands Sam McGee's Cabin of which the Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) is in charge.
Walking eastward for half a block we arrive at Third Avenue. Turning to the left one block we arrive back on Main Street with the Capital Theatre on the corner and the ball park facing northwards. Keeping on the south side of Main, walking toward Second Avenue, we drop in at the Whitehorse Jewellery Store, where Mrs. Besner will be glad to do the honours and show you some Yukon nuggets which her husband and associates are securing from their claims not far from Whitehorse. You should then drop in at the Yukon Fur Shop and have a chat with Mrs. Hingle, a real old-timer in the North, or her daughter, Mrs. Gertsen. At the corner of Main and Second Avenue stands the W. H. Theatre, the first movie theatre erected in Whitehorse. It is closed for the present as the owner, Mr. Sam McLimon, is operating the Capitol Theatre at the corner of Main and Third Avenue. Adjoining the W. H. Theatre on Second Avenue is the Cake Box, an up-to-date bakery and confectionary establishment owned and operated by Mr. E. F. (Ted) Pinchin. On the vacant lot to the south once stood the first hospital in Whitehorse, which was in later years used as a public library until it was razed to the ground by personnel of the U.S. Army, who at the time were using the rear part of the premises. On the opposite side of the street stands the largest and most modern garage in town, owned and operated by Richards Transportation. The neat little office nearby is occupied by Mr Harry I. Hoddart, a dealer in made-to-measure clothing.
As you stand at the corner of Main and Second Avenue, looking southward, the two large imposing buildings right ahead are the General Hospital and Nurses' Home.
By the time you have covered the ground thus far it will be lunch-time so we'll leave you at the Whitehorse Inn and call for you again after lunch to show you the rest of the town.
Having "refreshed the inner man," and the ladies having fixed their "Hair-do," let's start out and take in the down-town section of the commercial metropolis of the Yukon. On the south side of Main, right opposite the Whitehorse Inn, is the Blue Owl Cafe, a favourite rendezvous for many, where the topics of the day are discussed and local gossip is sometimes indulged in. Adjoining is the Yukon Ivory Shop, where Mr. Jack Elliott, a former chief engineer on the river steamers for many years, now operates a high-class store and spends much of his time carving mastadon ivory which is the delight of tourists to the Yukon. Next door is the modern down-town office of Pan American World Airways (PAA), where you can make reservations through Mary Gunn, in charge, for Fairbanks, Alaska; Seattle, Washington; Mexico, Hawaii or anywhere else you choose to designate. You might also meet Ken Wilson, Keith Johnson, Jimmy Norrington or some other members of the staff whilst securing information. In the windows you will see on display for the benefit of all and sundry, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the same day it is published in Seattle. Proceeding toward the W. P. & Y. R. depot, you can call in and make an appointment at Laura's Beauty Salon or have a shave or haircut at Pete's Barber Shop. Then comes The Yukon Jewellery and Novelty Shop operated by Mr. R. Gordon Lee, who is the Councillor for this southern end of the Territory. He is conversant with territorial matters and particularly with mining in the Mayo district, where he resided for some yeras before coming to Whitehorse. On the opposite side of the lane is Hougen's Variety Store, where Mrs. Hougen will be at your service.
The White Pass Hotel, an old landmark, owned and operated by Mrs. Viaux, occupies the remainder of the block to First Avenue (often called Front Street). Turning to the right you next come to the Whitehorse Pharmacy, where Mr. Stewart Macpherson dispenses prescriptions and deals in all sorts of merchandise familiar in all drugstores. Mr. D. B. Ryan operates the electric shop adjoining and is kept busy taking care of the electrical needs of the community. Still further along is Seely's Pool Room and then the Post Office on the south corner of Elliott Street and First Avenue. The plant of the Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd., which services the town, the fire-hall (Stan. Dunbrack, Fire Chief) and the W. P. & Y. R. depot occupy the east side of First Avenue.
Crossing to Main Street, just below the Whitehorse Inn Cafe, is Burns & Co. Ltd., who for many years past have been the meat merchants, not only for Whitehorse but also throughout the Territory. Mr. T. C. Richards, one of the town's most prominent citizens, is the territorial Manager and Mr. H G. Armstrong the local Manager. Then we come to the two largest departmental stores in town which occupy a whole block on First Street. These are Messrs. Taylor & Drury Ltd. and the Northern Commercial Co. Ltd. These two largest stores are on a parity with those of larger centres. Visitors on first entering them are amazed at the floor space each occupies and the large variety and quality of merchandise carried. They are in reality the nerve centres for merchandising throughout the territory, conducting a very large volume of business the year round. Messrs. Taylor & Drury Ltd. operate several trading posts in strategic places throughout the territory and have done so since the early days, whilst The Northern Commercial Co. Ltd., with headquarters in Seattle,. Washington, not only have a large store in Dawson, Y. T. and another in Mayo, Y. T., but also have a network of stores throughout Alaska.
In the next block, northward, are located the down-town detachment of the R.C.M.P. and the Dominion Telegraph Office in charge of Mr. J. Bruce Watson whose parents came over the Chilkoot Pass in '98. Mr. Watson was born and raised here and is one of the best informed on the history of this town and the southern end of the territory.
At the corner of the next block stands the Regina Hotel, owned and operated by Mr. 0. E. Erickson. This hotel is also a landmark and has been in the possession of Mr. Erickson for many years now. It is the rendezvous for many of the old-timers on their way into the Territory or going outside.
Mr. Lortie operates the Yukon Tire Shop in premises adjacent to the Regina Hotel and is kept busy all the time. Next door is Jack Lewell's store which is unique in more ways than one. You should certainly drop in and have a chat with him for he is another old-timer. However, the transformation of recent years has not deterred him from carrying on his business in the same old way he has done all these years. Beyond are the shipyards of the British Yukon Navigation Co. Ltd. (B.Y.N. Co.), a sudsidiary of the W.P. & Y.R. Here the river steamers are hauled up on the ways for the long winter and, in the summer time, kept in repair and overhauled. It is a great institution and if the old boats, which now stand as silent sentinels of the days gone by, could only speak, what a story they could unfold!
Before we return to the Whitehorse Inn, we should perhaps retrieve our steps to the office of the local government agent and the liquor store. If you don't wish to make a purchase at this time, it is at least well to know where to go and when to get it.
Having escorted you on this tour around town we now leave you to your own resources. We trust you have had an enjoyable time and we are pleased to have had this opportunity of being of some service to you.
Au Revoir and Bon Voyage.