OLD FIREHALL

YHMA file: --interviews with: Bud Harbottle, Jack MacDonald, John Scott, Fred Blaker, Laurent Cyr, Lloyd Ryder, Ken Steele. --Acc. #Y039, Historic Buildings of Whitehorse, Yukon Historical & Museum's Association, 1980, text & photographs --text from 1979 photo display --report by B.C. Underwriters' Association 1948 re: pump house --18 frames of b&w negatives, 1979, credit D. Peacock Daily Alaskan, Skagway: --1905-05-23 "fire broke out this morning in the barber shop in the rear of the Windsor Hotel" Yukon Archives: --photo #5650 Scharschmidt collection--shows firehall still standing after 1905 fire --photo #5710--rebuilt firehall and new train station --photo #3180--first firehall from south --photo #4103 (1909) --'Reception of Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada' --photo #605 Public Archives of Canada collection--firehall and train station

Construction Period: From 1896 to 1905        Designation Level: Municipal

The Old Fire Hall was designated for its historical and architectural values.

The Old Fire Hall contains remnants of the original 1901 fire hall which are integrated into a two-storey cube with a low pitched shed roof and parapet. A one-storey addition with a gable roof was added by the Yukon Electric Company (YEC) in 1906. The original fire hall, with pyramidal roof, stood on land donated by White Pass and Yukon Route (WP&YR). In 1905, it was damaged by fire and a number of nearby buildings were destroyed. The next year the YEC built the addition onto the south wall to house their steam boilers and power generating engines. The boiler room addition allowed a symbiotic relationship where the YEC boilers pressurized the fire pumps next door and provided heat to the building, keeping hoses and pumps thawed while the fire hall provided fire security.

This building has undergone many alterations over the years due to damage from fire and changes in use. The hose tower was removed in 1935 after a second fire and the building began a transformation from the original, rather ornate Tudor Revival style to a functional, modern style with minimal detailing. To allow for a living space, the second floor walls of the fire hall were raised four feet and a new gable roof constructed. By the late 1940s, an extension was added to the YEC boiler room and the fire hall roof was changed to a shed roof with parapet.

The Old Fire Hall represents the evolution of Whitehorse's infrastructure. The establishment of fire protection and electricity supported the growth of the community. The location of the fire hall, close to the corner of First Avenue and Main Street, indicates the importance of these services to the commercial core and the importance of WP&YR to Whitehorse. The large garage doors, open interior space, concrete floor slab and visible trusses illustrate the industrial nature of the structure. The two-storey cube with its second storey apartment illustrates the building's combined residential and industrial functions. The simple design and building materials found in the Old Fire Hall are typical of the vernacular structures historically located along the Whitehorse waterfront.

Sources: "The White Pass and Yukon Railway Depot, Whitehorse, and Associated Structures: A Structural History". Midnight Arts, Heritage Branch, Yukon Government, 1998.

Historic Sites Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government file 3630 40 02

Additional Information

Until a fire truck was obtained in 1942, the fire department operated a two-wheeled hose cart. The cart consisted of a long hose which drew water from the Yukon River by an electric pump. The department also used a chemical engine, which consisted of a hose attached to a 40-gallon tank containing two separate chemicals. When the tank was tipped, the chemicals mixed and created a gas, which forced water through the hose. Whitehorse got its first paid firemen in 1943--a chief and two staff. The same year a firehall was built at 4th and Wheeler (Whitehorse Elem. and mall sites). Although it was built to service the Dowell construction Camp, it served the downtown area when needed. The Canadian Army took over this firehall in 1945, and worked in conjunction with the civilian fire dept., providing two additional trucks, 20 paid staff, and an ambulance service. In 1962, however, the Army moved its firehall to Camp Takhini, at which time the city was required to increase its own staff and upgrade facilities with a second fire truck. The Takhini firehall was turned over to Dept. of Public Works in the late 1960's, and eventually to the Whitehorse fire dept. The American Army also had a firehall in 1943, located on Steele St. behind the log telegraph bldg. It was later used as a liquor warehouse, then in 1949 as the new Whitehorse firehall. The present firehall on 2nd Ave was built in 1967 .

Character Defining Elements

The character-defining elements include:

- form and massing

- the siting on the waterfront and its orientation parallel to First Avenue and the WP&YR railway tracks

- the simple plan, two-storey cube and one-storey addition with gable roof

- pattern of window and door openings

- wood-frame construction and wood siding

Description of Boundaries

A 10m buffer of land on the north and east sides, a 5.5m buffer on the south side and a 1.5m buffer of land on the west side of the footprint of the building on Lot 4, Block 310, Plan 91-55

Historical Sources Location

YHMA file:

--interviews with: Bud Harbottle, Jack MacDonald, John Scott, Fred Blaker, Laurent Cyr, Lloyd Ryder, Ken Steele.

--Acc. #Y039, Historic Buildings of Whitehorse, Yukon Historical & Museum's Association, 1980, text & photographs

--text from 1979 photo display

--report by B.C. Underwriters' Association 1948 re: pump house

--18 frames of b&w negatives, 1979, credit D. Peacock

Daily Alaskan, Skagway:

--1905-05-23 "fire broke out this morning in the barber shop in the rear of the Windsor Hotel"

Yukon Archives:

--photo #5650 Scharschmidt collection--shows firehall still standing after 1905 fire

--photo #5710--rebuilt firehall and new train station

--photo #3180--first firehall from south

--photo #4103 (1909) --'Reception of Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada'

--photo #605 Public Archives of Canada collection--firehall and train station

Renovation Information

Roof raised 4 ft. to accommodate living quarters on the second floor: c.1940; sometime after 1949, further renovations were made.

Construction Style

Two-storey frame structure with flat roof, two o/h doors; concrete block foundation

Cultural History

The first firehall in Whitehorse was built in 1901 after a long 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 old firehall is currently used by the Yukon Government to store machinery and materials.

Documentation Location

Historic Sites Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government file 3630 40 02