The Yukon Sawmill Company was one of the first sawmills to cut timber in the Klondike, registering its first timber lease in March 1898. It was the most extensive and longest operating sawmill in the Yukon during the early twentieth century. During its peak in production, the Yukon Sawmill Co. had the largest machine shop north of Vancouver, a foundry, and a lumberyard that stretched over three city blocks. The isolation of Dawson City created a demand for local building materials and helped establish seven sawmills that operated during the Klondike Gold Rush.
The economic impact from these operations was far reaching, not only for residents, but also for the First Nations and non-First Nations contractors who cut the timber and rafted huge log booms down the Yukon River to the Dawson sawmills. The proximity to the Yukon River was integral to the Yukon Sawmill Company's operation; first to transport the logs from the timber berths to Dawson millponds and then to transport the logs under Front St. via a log chute.
The existing Yukon Sawmill Co. building housed the machine shop, sales area, and offices with some materials storage. The expansion of the machine shop business in 1902 reflects the change in the economy from supplying the building construction industry to providing a much needed supply and repair service to the mining companies operating in the Dawson region. This building is representative of the role that the lumber and mining industry played in the growth and development of Dawson City from a mining camp to a well-established supply centre and capital city of the Yukon.
The large interior volume was fundamental to the functionality of the building. Its Front and Duke Street facades and corner entrance were typical of the commercial properties in Dawson in the early 1900s. The freight doors and access hatch doors allowed easier movement of materials in and out of the first and second floors, and provided access to a mezzanine between floors. The first floor was divided into office and sales areas below the mezzanine with the remaining large open space devoted to the machine shop with its belt driven machinery. The structural system was adapted to allow a larger space on the first floor, with support columns removed, and trusses constructed with wrought iron rods hanging part of the second floor.
The two story structure with plain trims, oversize multi-light windows and hipped metal clad roof is an imposing structure on its corner lot. This combination of functional design and superior craftsmanship make the Yukon Sawmill Co. building an excellent example of vernacular architecture designed for a commercial/industrial purpose dating from the turn of the century.
Source: Yukon Sawmill Co. Office, file No. 3630 32 06 Heritage Resources Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government
Character Defining Elements
- The form and siting of the building on its lot, and proximity to the Yukon River
- Exterior architectural elements that illustrate its commercial/industrial use such as the fenestration, 12/6 window sashes and doors, other existing openings through exterior walls, hip roof, exterior cladding, plain exterior trims and painted signage
- Structural systems such as roof framing, trusses, wrought iron rods, columns and beams and wall framing
- Interior has expansive open space with high ceilings
- Remnants of ceiling mounts for the ground floor belt driven equipment
Description of Boundaries
Lot 1, Block E Ladue Estate Plan 8338A
Historical Sources Location
Dominion Land Titles
Territorial Land Titles
Dawson Municipal Records. Assessment and Tax Rolls
Dawson City Directories for 1903, 1905-6 and 1915-16
University of Washington, Cantwell 12
Public Archives of Canada, C6267
Information Canada 64-943
#6/120, 6/121, Parks Canada, Klondike National Historic Sites
"The Yukon Sawmill Company: Last of the Gold Rush Sawmills". Net Word Business Services, Florian Mauer Architect Ltd., Heritage Branch Gov of Yukon, 1997.
Permit issued in September 1983 to construct new foundation for the building, finalized in November 1983.
Permit issued in September 1984 to complete minor exterior renovations. No final date.
Permit issued in October 1985 to complete minor exterior renovations to the workshop. No final date.
Permit issued in September 1987 to construct a warehouse. Permit finalized in October 1987.
Permit issued in March 1997 to move building and construct new foundation. Permit finalized in August 1997.
Two story addition added to east side of building in approx 2005.
Two story building with ship lap siding and a metal hip roof, tongue and groove soffits, single hung windows with molded shaped trim and lug sills. Plain continuous frieze under the eaves acts as header trim for the second floor windows. Flush planking on sawdust boxes, metal cap. Inset corner entrance on south west corner, single door with three light transom, open platform and stairs, shaped and molded trim and overhang on door. Molded pilasters on each side of corner entrance, decorative panels above corner entrance. Double doors with multi pane transom on south wall, no access. Single door, three light transom, shaped and molded trim on west wall. Double doors on west wall, no access. Continuous molded frieze at second floor level, continuous plain frieze at first floor level.
The natural eddy along the Dawson waterfront was ideal for mooring logs as well as steamers and a good place to set up a sawmill. By 1898 there were so many logs boomed along the waterfront that it was difficult to find moorage for a boat or, when the logs were being floated to Dawson, for river traffic to get past them.
The Yukon Sawmill, established by 1898 by JF Burke in association with the Alaska Commercial Company, was one of the earliest sawmills to operate in the Dawson area. By 1901 a new two-story building, the Yukon Sawmill Company Office, was constructed at the corner of Duke and Front streets. Once the White Pass and Yukon Railway was completed in 1901, the mills imported exotic woods from BC then began to produce value-added goods such as chairs and tables.
Between 1902 and 1903, the demand for milled logs dropped dramatically, likely due to the fact that the largest mining operations had already built their sluices and other infrastructure. The town of Dawson was also largely built and its population cresting by this date. Ownership changed in 1904 but the company continued to carry on its business on a large scale after its sale to Louis Sloss. By 1906, milling operations were winding down or amalgamating. There were as many as 12 mills operating in and around Dawson but only six had a stable long-term presence. By 1906, The Yukon Saw Mill Co. was the only one left.
In 1910 Benjamin Volkman became the Yukon Sawmill Company's manager, however, by 1912 both Joseph Burke and Frank Johnston are listed as managers for the company. By 1912 the business owned Lots 1,2,6 and 7 on Block E of the Ladue Estate where the milling operations, a warehouse on the riverfront, a machine shop foundry and offices were situated. The company suspended its operations in this building some time between 1919 and 1923. In 1926, Charles Redmond bought the building for an unknown use and sold it in 1931 to John Spence, a grocer, who used it as a cold storage warehouse. In 1938, Spence sold it to the Northern Commercial Company, who owned it until 1963 when the Cassiar Asbestos Company purchased the property. By 1967 the property was owned by the Government of Yukon. Yukon government restored the exterior and rehabilitated the interior. Currently it is being used by Energy Mines and Resources as office space.
Mills in the Dawson Area:
Ladue Mill - originally built in 1896 when Joseph Ladue moved his mill from Ogilvie Island and staked the townsite.
Klondike Mill Co. 1897 - this was the mill brought by John J. Healy of the NAT&TCo. Of Dawson's four mills in 1902 this one, the Klondike Mill, was considered "the largest plant of its kind in the Yukon" and annually produced 4 million feet of rough and finished lumber." This mill was set up on an island at the mouth of the Klondike River connected to what would become Klondike City.
Dawson Sawmill and Building Company, aka O.W. Hobbs Mill 1897- on First Ave. between the Yukon Saw Mill and the Ladue Mill.
Yukon Sawmill Co., 1898 - also known as J.F. Burke’s Yukon Saw Mill.
Arctic Saw Mill and William’s Mill aka William Bros. Mill - these were operating in 1898 but likely only ran for two years.
D.G Stewart & Co., 1898 - was at the south end of town near the NWMP post. Canadian Yukon Lumber Co., 1900 - D.G Stewart is listed as the manager for this mill but his operation seems to have folded or been bought out. The company also ran a mill at Fort Selkirk in 1898.
Northern Lumber Co. 1903 - located on Klondike Garden Island upstream from the Klondike Mill.
Yukon Sawmill Company 12-Mile Sawmill (contracted by Yukon Gold Company) - made lumber for construction of the Yukon Ditch.
25: Claire Eamer & Antonio Zedda, The Yukon Saw Mill Company: Last of the Gold Rush Sawmills
(prepared for YG, Heritage Branch. Feb. 1997), p.6.
26: Eamer & Zedda. p. 9.
27: Ibid., p.3.
28: Dawson City Museum, Postcard (DCM 2016.17.19.3).
Yukon Sawmill Co. Office, file No. 3630 32 06 Heritage Resources Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government
This two-story building is wood platform framed construction with clapboard siding and a metal clad hip roof. The single hung windows have shaped trim and a plain continuous frieze under the eaves acts as header trim for the second floor windows. There is also a belt course at the second floor level and a water table board at the first floor level. The inset entrance on south west corner has a single door and a fixed transom sash. All other doors are similar in appearance and trim. There are pilasters on each side and decorative panels above the corner entrance. The interior has heavy timber framing and the roof framing is rafters. Two custom-designed trusses that hang the second floor were installed after support columns were removed from the first floor.