Northern Commercial Company Warehouse
Recognized Federal Heritage Building
Dawson, Yukon Territory
© © Permission Guy Masson
Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada, Dawson, Yukon Territory
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1902 to 1902
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Northern Commercial Company Warehouse, also known as Building 17, is one of a small group of buildings located on the north end of King Street, in the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada. This long, timber-frame building, clad with weathered board and batten, is topped by a metal, gable roof. The building has a double-door entrance flanked by small windows at door-head height on the gable end. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Northern Commercial Company Warehouse is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Northern Commercial Company Warehouse is one of a very small group of buildings directly associated with the Klondike Gold Rush. More specifically, it demonstrates how the short shipping season in the North was handled through the creation of large storage facilities. The building was built by the largest trading corporation on the Yukon River at the height of the rush, which followed the discovery of gold in 1896. The construction of the warehouse is also directly associated with the first development of the area north of King Street. This area became a warehouse district, later superseded by residential and institutional development.
The Northern Commercial Company Warehouse is valued for its good aesthetic design. It belongs to a class of buildings that were constructed by large, established outside concerns with few economic constraints. As a result, the building is uniform in construction and is built from the highest quality materials. Also, the functionality of the warehouse is very good, with a central tramway for distributing goods and a large unobstructed interior space. The windows are arranged along the walls to allow for maximum storage of goods.
The Northern Commercial Company Warehouse is compatible with the character of its residential and institutional setting and is a familiar building to residents and visitors of Dawson.
Sources: Joan Mattie, Twenty-two Dawson structures, Dawson, Yukon, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report, 88-012; N.C. Co. Warehouse, Dawson, Yukon, Heritage Character Statement, 88-012.
The character-defining elements of the Northern Commercial Company Warehouse should be respected.
Its good aesthetic design, very good functional design, materials and craftsmanship, for example: the symmetrical massing topped by a gable roof with a standing seam, galvanized steel finish; the pattern of openings, including a double door flanked by small windows on the end elevations, and the numerous small windows, placed at regular intervals on the long walls and immediately under the top plate, which provide the maximum stacking height for goods; the elevations clad with weathered board and batten; the exposed, light timber platform framing of the walls and the regularly spaced Howe trusses with bracing, which span the roof and provide a column-free and unobstructed interior space; the interior central tramway feature to facilitate the storage and retrieval of goods in the warehouse.
The manner in which the Northern Commercial Company Warehouse is compatible with the character of its residential and institutional setting and is a familiar building in Dawson, as evidenced by: its overall scale, massing and materials, which harmonize with adjacent structures within the residential and institutional development at the north end of King Street; its known historic relationship with the adjoining thoroughfares of King Street and Fifth Avenue; its historic association with the gold-rush era which makes it familiar to residents and visitors of Dawson.
Heritage Character Statement
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.
The one-storey frame building commonly known as the N.C. Co. Warehouse was constructed by the Alaska Commercial Company in the late summer and fall of 1898 as part of a complex which initially included four warehouses and a two-storey log staff quarters. The building, a cold storage facility, has continued to serve a warehouse function under successive owners. Known changes to the exterior of the building include the painting of " N.C. Co." in large letters on the west side of the roof (1901), the addition of a small open-sided shed to the east elevation (1902-1903), the fixing of the sliding door and the cutting of a new transom over the central door in the south elevation (c.1921), the tearing up of the tramway track and trestle at both elevations with some track elements left at the interior (1921), and the addition of a corrugated metal skirting (c.1973). On the interior, the only known change of any significance is the addition of a temporary office in the northeast corner by Parks Canada (c.1973). The building is owned by Canadian Heritage and continues to serve in a warehouse capacity for artifact storage. See FHBRO Building Report 88-12.
Reasons for Designation
The N.C. Co. Warehouse was designated Recognized because of the important theme it illustrates and the essential role it played in the development of the community. The proven functional qualities of the building were also a factor in its designation.
Built by the largest trading concern on the Yukon River at the height of the rush which followed the discovery of gold in August 1896, the N.C. Co. Warehouse is one of a very small group of buildings directly associated with the theme of the Klondike Gold-rush. More specifically, it demonstrates how the short shipping season in the North was handled by the creation of large storage facilities. The construction of the warehouse represents the first development in this area north of King Street which became a warehouse district, later superseded by residential/institutional development.
Warehouses built by smaller independent concerns on the Dawson townsite were predominantly vernacular designs, enlarged to meet the needs of the day, and were somewhat eclectic and improvisational in their use of materials. The N.C. Co. Warehouse, on the other hand, belongs to a class of buildings erected by large, established outside concerns with few economic constraints. As a consequence, the building is uniform in construction and of the highest quality materials, and may have been architecturally designed.
The functionality of the Warehouse is excellent, with a central tramway for distributing the goods and a depth of storage on each side based on the practical distance for
man-handling of goods. The light timber platform framing of the walls and the regularly spaced Howe trusses with bracing which span the roof provide a column-free and unobstructed interior space that is ideal for storage. The numerous small windows, placed at regular intervals on the long walls and immediately under the top plate, provide the maximum stacking height for goods.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage character of the building derives in part from the plain, symmetrical gable end facing the street, with its characteristic warehouse pattern of openings (a double door flanked by small windows at door head height) and shape (a proportion of 3:2 width to gable height). Additional contributions to the character are made by the long side elevations with their weathered board and batten finish and regularly spaced window pattern, and the gable roof with its standing seam, galvanized steel finish.
Removal of the large double door cut into the south elevation (between the south-east corner and the original central door) and the restoration of the board and batten wall, sliding door and window elements of this elevation would enhance the architectural character of the warehouse as a whole.
Internally, the building is characterized by the central tramway feature, the unpartitioned design of the space, and the exposed building frame. The removal of the office area in the north-east corner of the building and any other subdivision of the space would enhance the appearance and integrity of the interior.
Considering the intact condition of this rare gold-rush era warehouse, the continued use of the building for cold storage minimizes changes to the building fabric (structure, building envelope, access, exiting etc.), requires only minor upgrades to services (lighting, ventilation, plumbing, fire suppression, etc.), and, most importantly, does not increase the fire risk.
The historic relationship between the building and the adjoining thoroughfares of King Street and Fifth Avenue was originally heavily influenced by security and fire protection concerns. Maintaining set-backs and side-yards and leaving the site unencumbered will ensure this relationship is preserved.