Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site
Reasons for national historic significance
Dawson Historical Complex protects over 17 buildings that are associated with the story of the Klondike Gold Rush. The site reflects the social, economic and political features that shaped the Yukon region over the last century.
In August 1896, gold was discovered on Rabbit Creek, later named Bonanza. When word reached the outside world, the Klondike Stampede began. Over 100,000 people started out for the Klondike goldfields and some 30,000 actually reached Dawson City in the summer of 1898.
A modern community quickly emerged at the junction of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. Dawson City became the supply and service centre for the miners and was capable of providing the newcomers with all that they needed from champagne to oranges.
It became obvious during the Gold Rush that there was an immediate need for the enforcement of Canadian law and the firm administration of Canadian policies. To address this the Canadian government established the Yukon Territory and a large civil service was soon in place. Dawson became the centre that provided the administrative and legal role for the running of a mining community and a territory.
The excitement however quickly petered out after the turn of the century, with the formation of large corporations which bought up individual claims. The Klondike continued to produce gold in abundance for a number of years but by the 1940's Dawson was a village with a permanent population of under 1,000.
Dawson City, Yukon
Dawson City, the heart of the Klondike, was named for Dr. George Mercer Dawson, a Canadian government geologist. A trading post on a mud flat at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, Dawson mushroomed in a single season to become a sprawling boom town, made up of log and frame buildings, and tents. In 1898-9, at the height of the rush, the itinerant population of Dawson was estimated between 20,000 and 30,000, making it the largest community west of Winnipeg and north of Seattle.
The decline of Dawson City was almost as rapid as its rise. With the development of industrial mining, the days of the individual miner were over and the population declined. Those who stayed remained optimistic. Dawson's survival as a community was the result of years of mining activity by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation and its fleet of dredges. Nonetheless, the town and the economy continued to erode slowly over the decades.
In 1953 the territorial capital was transferred to Whitehorse. But the picturesque town nestled beneath the scarred and rounded hill known as the Moosehide Slide, located less than 200 miles (322 km) below the Arctic Circle, is still very much a part of our historical heritage.
Gold was discovered on Bonanza Creek. Joe Ladue staked out a town site at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike River.
Word reached the outside about the gold strike. The settlement of Dawson consisted of a tent town surrounding Joe Ladue's saloon and sawmill.
In all 100,000 people set out for the Klondike, but only 30,000 actually reached Dawson. The Yukon became a territory and Dawson became its capital.
Over 300 businesses opened their doors from saloons and dance halls to hardware and grocery stores to dress shops and blacksmiths.
The population of Dawson began to dwindle with the rush to the gold fields of Nome, Alaska and the development of large dredge companies and corporate mining.
Dawson took on the look of a permanent Edwardian community. It was a city of churches, theatres, newspapers, sophisticated municipal services and a vast number of shops and stores.
Dawson City was incorporated as a city and the Canadian government erected a number of public buildings.
Dawson's population had declined to less than 1 000 people.
Seventeen buildings in Dawson City were designated nationally significant.
Buildings of Dawson Historical Complex
Palace Grand Theatre
Visit the Palace Grand Theatre
The Old Post Office*
Madame Tremblay’s Store*
Dawson Daily News
The Klondike Thawing Machine Co.*
Bigg’s Blacksmith Shop
Bank of British North America
N.W.M.P. Married Officer’s Quarters*
Visit the Commissioner’s residence
Territorial Courthouse National Historic Site
Learn more about Territorial Courthouse National Historic Site
St. Andrew’s Church
Red Feather Saloon
Robert Service Cabin
Visit the Robert Service cabin
Northern Commercial Co. Warehouse
Third Avenue Complex
West’s Boiler Shop
St. Andrew’s Manse
N.W.M.P. Commanding Officer’s Residence*
Fort Herchmer Jail
Fort Herchmer Stables