Palace Grand Theatre

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Dawson, Yukon Territory
Detail of Palace Grand Theatre main façade © Parks Canada Agency \ Agence Parcs Canada
Detail of main facade
© Parks Canada Agency \ Agence Parcs Canada
Detail of Palace Grand Theatre main façade © Parks Canada Agency \ Agence Parcs CanadaGeneral view of Palace Grand Theatre © Parks Canada Agency \ Agence Parcs Canada
Address : 255 King Street, Dawson, Yukon Territory

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 2008-05-01
  • 1962 to 1962 (Construction)
  • 1899 to 1899 (Established)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • C.H. Albertson (1899)  (Architect)
  • Gardiner, Thornton, Gathe & Associates (1962)  (Builder)
Custodian: Parks Canada
FHBRO Report Reference: 06-042

Heritage Character Statement

Disclaimer - The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.

Description of Historic Place
The Palace Grand Theatre is an elegant three storey wood structure, rectangular in plan, which is characterized by the symmetrical arrangement of refined architectural features on its impressive false front façade. It was constructed in 1962 as a nearly exact replica of the original 1899 Palace Grand Theatre which, having fallen into serious disrepair, was demolished. The present building is identical to its predecessor with the exception of some approximated interior elements and its distinctly modern components such as emergency exit additions to the east and west sides and service structures to the rear. The building is part of the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada, which commemorates Dawson’s role in the Klondike Gold Rush.

Heritage Value
The Palace Grand Theatre is a “Classified” Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical value:
The 1962 reconstruction of the Palace Grand Theatre is a very good illustration of the approach to conservation in Canada during the 1960s, prior to the adoption of the Venice Charter. As a close replica of the original 1899 theatre, it is thematically associated with the commemoration of the Klondike Gold Rush and is representative of the federal government’s commemorative program that established Dawson and the surrounding goldfields as a National Historic Site. The City of Dawson can be defined by three distinct phases: the boomtown of the late 1890s, the ghost town of the 1940s and 1950s, and its restoration by government in the 1960s. The reconstruction of the Palace Grand Theatre was the first step in the third phase, marking the beginning of the Dawson Historical Complex NHSC, its protection and tourism potential. It is one of the most prominent buildings in Dawson and is one of the best illustrations of this significant phase of the City’s rebirth.

Architectural value:
The high aesthetic quality of the 1962 Palace Grand Theatre resides in its integrity as a close replica of the original building, the legibility of historical detailing and the charm of its interior space. The original Palace Grand Theatre of 1899 was a remarkable example of Queen Anne Revival, boomtown commercial architecture during the Gold Rush era. It was measured and recorded in detail prior to being demolished and reconstructed. Designed by the Vancouver architectural firm of Gardiner, Thornton, Gathe & Associates, the treatment of the current building was almost identical to the original theatre with the exception of some simulated interior finishes and partitions and the distinctly modern service additions (emergency exit stairs, washroom facilities and furnace room) to the east, west and north sides. These additions to support increased egress and programmatic elements portend current conservation theory by being easily identifiable and not obscuring the legibility of the replicated theatre.
Aesthetically, the refined and distinctive nature of the building’s architecture is expressed through the symmetrical and decorative elements of the main tripartite façade, notably its fenestration and railings, substantial cornices, diagonal wood cladding and characteristic false front. The very high functional quality of the theatre is attributed to its resolution of structural problems inherent in the foundation of the 1899 building, its respect for original wood framing and balcony suspension techniques, and the success of incorporating upgrades to meet Code standards (ie. mechanical and life/fire safety systems) while preserving the integrity of the original design and function. The building was constructed using materials and methods typical of its location during the 1960s, notably traditional wood frame construction. Careful consideration was given to researching and replicating or approximating original details and finishes of the 1899 building’s interior and exterior. The use of very high quality craftsmanship and materials is reflected in the building’s good condition.

Environmental value:
The Palace Grand Theatre is located on the same flat grassy site as its predecessor. Although the building’s historical relationship to its surroundings has been altered by later additions, its overall character remains. Located in the heart of Dawson, the theatre is set amidst a large concentration of public buildings of harmonious scale, massing and materials. It is a key element of the area by virtue of both its function and ornate façade. Its Queen Anne Revival, boomtown style reinforces the present character of the area while its on-going use as a theatre strengthens the nature of its setting as one of Dawson’s best-known tourist attractions. The Palace Grand Theatre is part of the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada and is a NHS Level 1 resource associated with the Klondike Gold Rush. It was featured during the 2007 Canada Winter Games through a replication of its façade as a starting gate for downhill ski events. As such the building stands as a symbol of both the city and region.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Palace Grand Theatre that should be respected include:
— Its false front, characteristic of the boomtown vocabulary and commemoration of the Klondike Gold Rush;
— The refined and distinctive nature of its tripartite façade as expressed by:
— The wide triangular pediment atop a bracketed cornice and frieze;
— The symmetrical, tall middle tier with its five narrow, round-headed windows above a central door, and two flanking bay windows topped with delicate railings, stylistic features typical of Queen Anne commercial architecture of the period and local vernacular;
— The central balcony with decorative railings;
— The lower cornice with its strong horizontal emphasis;
— Large multi-pane windows at grade which frame double entrance doors and full-height transom;
— Its wood cladding, applied in a herringbone pattern, which sets it apart from the horizontal configuration on the remaining façades;
— The copper roof;
— The distinct vocabulary of exterior service and circulation additions that are clearly distinguishable from the replicated theatre in form and materials;
— The interior balconies, suspended from the roof structure by steel rods;
— Its outstanding acoustics;
— The inconspicuous nature of the upgrades to meet Code standards i.e. discreet sprinklers;
— The very good quality workmanship and materials of both the exterior and the interior of the building including:
— Its wood frame construction methods and materials, typical of its northern location during the 1960s;
— Its interior finishes and details such as wallpaper, mouldings, light fixtures and fittings that have been either simulated or replicated from records of the 1899 originals.
— Its scale, massing and materials that are congruous with other public buildings in the area;
— Its location as part of the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada.

For guidance on interventions, please refer to the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. For further information contact FHBRO.

October, 2008