The Canadian government initially built a telegraph line from Dawson City in the Yukon to Bennett, British Columbia where an existing line connected to Skagway, Alaska via the White Pass and Yukon Railway right-of-way. From there, messages were transcribed and taken by ship down the coast where they could connect with the telegraph again at Vancouver. While faster than the mail, this still proved to be a slow and cumbersome method of sending messages. It had the added disadvantage of not being entirely on Canadian soil. In December 1899, the decision was made to take a wholly Canadian route, connecting to the line at Ashcroft, B.C. The new line split off from the Dawson-Skagway line at Carcross and ran the 1125 miles to Ashcroft.
The first telegraph office was built on the east bank of the river in the original community of Whitehorse in 1899. While construction of the telegraph line was underway, the railway was completed to Whitehorse on the opposite side of the river. A new building to house the operator and office was constructed in the new townsite and was completed before the railway station in 1900. The old building was stripped of doors, windows and anything useful to furbish the new office, although the building itself stood into the 1940s. The Whitehorse telegraph office served as both office and residence for its operators. The head operator, George Fleming, lived there until his retirement in 1923, and was succeeded by Bruce Watson until 1927. After that, use of the station ceased and two houses next door were used as the telegraph office instead.
It is likely the Telegraph Office was designed by Joseph Charles Taché, a civil engineer and superintendent for the federal Department of Public Works who worked on the Dawson-Ashcroft Telegraph Line. Taché was responsible for road and river “improvements” which included many things associated with the telegraph line including the construction of other offices.
55: Heritage Character Statement: Telegraph Office, prepared by Midnight Arts for City of Whitehorse, October 2010.