Root Cellar

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Dawson, Yukon Territory
View of the Root Cellar, showing its loading dock and its earth cover, 1988. (© Department of Energy, Mines and Resources / Ministère de l'Énergie, des Mines et des Ressources , 1988.)
General view
(© Department of Energy, Mines and Resources / Ministère de l'Énergie, des Mines et des Ressources , 1988.)
Address : Bear Creek Compound, Dawson, Yukon Territory

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 1993-11-15
Dates:
  • 1952 to 1952 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation (YCGC)  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Building 56  (Other Name)
Custodian: Parks Canada
FHBRO Report Reference: 89-008
DFRP Number: 20008 00

Description of Historic Place

The Root Cellar, also known as Building 56, faces a large, open yard in the Bear Creek Compound, a historic, non-operating, placer gold mining facility in the Klondike River valley. Most of the structure is concealed under a thick covering of earth. The exposed entrance is a wooden retaining wall with a distinctive door and a loading platform, beside which, is a small, shed-roofed enclosure. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Root Cellar is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value
The Root Cellar, as part of the Bear Creek Compound, is associated with the corporate phase of the Yukon’s gold mining history. It illustrates the development of community life at the complex because of its role in the local production and storage of root crops and potatoes and as a food supply in this remote location.

Architectural Value
The Root Cellar is a utilitarian structure with a good aesthetic design. The shape and treatment of the front elevation enhances the visual quality of this functional structure, most of which is concealed under a thick covering of earth. It is also a very good example of a functional design that allows long-term storage of root crops and tubers produced in quantity. The structure demonstrates good workmanship and appropriate use of materials as evidenced in the features that provide the storage chamber with easy access, controlled air circulation, and a stable temperature range.

Environmental Value
The Root Cellar maintains an unchanged relationship to its site and reinforces the character of its industrial setting at Bear Creek Compound. The structure is familiar to those within the area.

Sources: Joan Mattie, Bear Creek Industrial Complex, Bear Creek, Yukon Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 89-008; Root Cellar (Building #56), Bear Creek Compound, Yukon, Heritage Character Statement, 89-008.

Character-Defining Elements

The following character-defining elements of the Root Cellar should be respected. the simple and functional nature of its design, and its overall good workmanship and appropriate use of materials; its unusual form and massing, including its distinctive front elevation, with the attached enclosure and loading dock, and its earth cover; the features that unify it with the site’s other structures, including the rooftop ventilators, the wooden cladding of the front wall, and the main entrance door, with its diagonal boards and three prominent strap hinges; the connecting passage with its double-door airlock arrangement; the shape and configuration of its storage chamber, with two rows of posts down the centre; its comfortable relationship; due to its simple form, materials, detailing, and colour; with the other structures and landscape features of the site.

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.

The Root Cellar (Building #56) was constructed by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation (YCGC) in 1952 as long-term storage space for vegetables. It is part of the Bear Creek industrial complex, a service facility for the YCGC gold mining operations. Operations at the complex ceased in 1966, and the property was acquired by Parks Canada, its present custodian, in 1975.

Reasons for designation

The Root Cellar is a 'Recognized' Federal Heritage Building because of its historical, architectural, and environmental values:

As part of the Bear Creek complex, the Root Cellar is one of the most recently constructed buildings associated with the corporate phase of Yukon's gold mining history. It illustrates the development of community life at the complex because of its role in the local production and storage of root crops and potatoes as a food supply in this remote location.

The simple, functional design of the Root Cellar conforms to a pattern common in many places in Canada where root crops and tubers were produced in quantity and required long-term storage. The front elevation is unusual in shape and treatment, and enhances the visual quality of this otherwise utilitarian structure, most of which is concealed under a thick covering of earth. It is essentially a wooden retaining wall with a distinctive entrance door and a loading platform, beside which is small shed-roofed enclosure where tally sheets, tools, and other items such as sacks may have been kept. Two boxed ventilators project from the roof. Underneath its earth cover the Root Cellar is a stout rectangular timber building, with a single inner chamber and two rows of posts down the middle. A second door at the end of a short passage through the earth fill provides an air lock when combined with the front entry door. These features provide the storage chamber with easy access, controlled air circulation, and a stable temperature range. They also demonstrate good workmanship and appropriate use of materials.

Although its exterior appearance is different from the structures around it, the Root Cellar reinforces the industrial character of this functionally obsolete but remarkably intact village-like mining service facility, with its 80 structures and a number of landscape features typical of large-scale mechanical placer mining. Like the other main buildings on the site, its front gable is oriented towards the large open yard, although it is set back considerably from it.


Character-defining elements

The following character-defining elements of the Root Cellar should be respected:
· The simple and functional nature of its design, and its overall good workmanship and appropriate use of
materials.
· Its unusual form and massing, including its distinctive front elevation, with the attached enclosure and loading
dock, and its earth cover.
· The features that unify it with the site's other structures, including the rooftop ventilators, the wooden
cladding of the front wall, and the main entrance door, with its diagonal boards and three prominent strap
hinges.
· The connecting passage with its double-door airlock arrangement.
· The shape and configuration of its storage chamber, with its two rows of posts down the centre.
Its comfortable relationship ' due to its simple form, materials, detailing, and colour ' with the other
structures and landscape features of the site.