The first firehall in Whitehorse was built in 1901 after a campaign promoting its merits to the public. In 1905, after 4 years of convincing residents to financially support the fire department, the firehall burned in the great Whitehorse fire. Although much of the waterfront was destroyed, the firehall partially survived the fire. Ironically, the volunteer fire department had received its new fire-fighting apparatus the day before but did not have much success operating it. The fire engine broke down after only a few minutes of operation.
The second firehall was built shortly afterwards on the same site and was part of the Yukon Electric power plant. The two-storey portion of the building was used to house the volunteer staff, adjacent to the bell tower. The bell tower was destroyed by fire ca. 1937, after which time the roof was raised and living quarters were installed. The building assumed its square elevation sometime after 1949, when further renovations were made. The tower bell is now in the MacBride Museum.
The Yukon Electrical Company was founded and began service in 1901. They were located in a small log building just south of the Steam Laundry and north of the White Pass warehouses (likely between Jarvis and Wood on Front Street). After the Great Fire of May 23rd, 1905, the YEC entered into an agreement with the territorial government to move their plant to immediately south of the fire hall and to provide the fire hall operations with the power they would need to pressurize their pumps. On August 26th, the light plant was moved using flat cars and the town was without power or lights for four days and nights.
With the south addition, the Firehall was now in three parts; the engine room to the south, boiler room in the middle, and firehall to the north. The engine room contained the engine and two dynamos with workbenches, metal lathe and tools. There were two boilers in the boiler room. A 60-horsepower boiler was in constant use with a standby boiler for use in big fires. There were also two 30 kw generators. Firewood for the boilers was brought in from Cowley station on the train and stored on a flat car on a siding right outside the doors on the east side. The firehall also had the hose-drying tower and a stairway up on the street side.
The two institutions occupied the same structure until about 1948 or ‘49 when the fire hall was relocated to a building on Steele Street. YEC remained in the building until 1957 when the completion of the Whitehorse Dam meant the old equipment was no longer needed. That same year, YEC and Yukon Hydro, which had the power plant on McIntyre Creek, were bought by Canadian Utilities of Alberta. ATCO’s Alberta Power Limited bought Canadian Utilities and the Yukon Electric Company in 1980.
White Pass purchased the building sometime in the late 1970s and used it for file storage. The Yukon Government purchased it in 1991 and began the process of rehabilitation and re-use. It is currently used by the Yukon Arts Centre as an exhibition and performance space.
48: Whitehorse Star; 14, 15, 25, 26 August; 8 September 1905.
49: Midnight Arts, The White Pass and Yukon Railway Depot, Whitehorse and associated buildings, Yukon Government Heritage Branch, 1998.
50: Helene Dobrowolsky, Midnight Arts, The Early History of Power in the Yukon, Yukon Energy and Yukon Development Corporation, 2004.