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
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
--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"
--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
Roof raised 4 ft. to accommodate living quarters on the second floor: c.1940; sometime after 1949, further renovations were made.
Two-storey frame structure with flat roof, two o/h doors; concrete block foundation
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.
Historic Sites Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government file 3630 40 02