The Pioneer Hotel is significant for its historical and architectural values. The hotel was built in 1899 by John Smart, a saloon keeper and Edward Dixon, an ex-Mountie who turned river pilot during the Klondike gold rush. The hotel was constructed in the first community of White Horse, located across the river from the present city centre. In 1900, a new townsite was laid out on the opposite riverbank to accommodate the terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. The Pioneer Hotel was moved to a prominent position near the railway depot and sternwheeler terminus where it served as a hotel, bar and restaurant, a rooming house and finally as rental accommodation. It remained on Front Street between Elliot and Lambert Streets through the heyday of the sternwheeler era, witnessing the rise and demise of the Whitehorse waterfront as a transportation hub.
By 1955, the Alaska Highway had supplanted sternwheelers and dismantling of the infrastructure associated with the fleet began. During this period the Pioneer Hotel was split into parts and relocated to the squatter community north of the Shipyards. This community was originally home to transient workers and First Nations people, representing an alternative lifestyle and was occupied by people who by choice or economic circumstance, opted to reside here. One of these people was John Hatch who lived in the building for twenty years prior to his death and coincidentally, the end of the Shipyards community. Hatch was a well known local photographer and advocate for the preservation of the Shipyards neighbourhood. Many of the remaining interior furnishings of the Pioneer Hotel 2 were constructed by Mr. Hatch. Of particular note is the built-in furniture and cabinet work along with the hand crafted windows. Several artifacts from Mr. Hatch's life remain inside the cabin. His photographs in particular document life in the Shipyards community during his time there.
The Pioneer Hotel is a rarity having survived here over forty years, outliving the Shipyards squatter community, a key element of Whitehorse's social development. It is one of three remaining buildings of the community that was vacated in 2001.
Pioneer Hotel 2 is the rear portion of the hotel that was originally built in four sections. Shortly after the move to the Shipyards, the middle sections of the hotel were destroyed, one by fire and one for use as firewood. Pioneer Hotel 1 and Pioneer Hotel 2 are all that remain of the oldest known building in Whitehorse associated with the founding of the community and early commercial development.
Architectural features such as the medium pitched gable roof, the round log walls V-notched at the rear corners and hewn flat on the interior, are typical of the vernacular construction style in Whitehorse dating from the turn of the century. A unique element of the Pioneer Hotel cabins is the use of hawsers as chinking. Although partially obscured by a frame addition extending from the west end of the building, the original portion of the hotel can be discerned as a distinct entity. An addition off the east wall was demolished when the Yukon River eroded the foundation, all that remains of this addition is a small plywood structure attached to the southeast corner. A fire erased the original interior, however the remaining elements from its last occupant provide an authentic glimpse of the lifestyle in this former squatter community just before its demise.
Sources: Keay & Associate, Architecture Ltd. Restoration Plans: Pioneer Hotel 1, Pioneer Hotel 2, US Army Building, Shipyards Park Whitehorse, Yukon. Whitehorse Riverfront Planning, March, 2004.
Helene Dobrowolsky & Rob Ingram. Edge of the River, Heart of the City. Whitehorse, Lost Moose Publishing, 1994.
Midnight Arts. Whitehorse Heritage Building Report. City of Whitehorse, 1999.
Kobayashi & Zedda, Midnight Arts and N.A. Jacobsen. Shipyards Park Heritage Conservation Plan. City of Whitehorse, 2002.
The Moccasin Flats began as an area occupied by tents and small structures belonging to shipyard carpenters and employees, and newcomers to Whitehorse. Among them were John Sewell and James Richards, better known as "Buzzsaw Jimmy", who leased a portion of this area in 1910 to operate a sawmill--a venture which lasted for a five years before running into financial difficulty. First Nations people also resided in the area while employed by White Pass in the summer, or while in town to load up on supplies and visit friends. Today the Moccasin Flats and adjacent areas remain the last vestiges of a once large and colourful community within Whitehorse. The nature of employment with BYN Co. in the shipyards and on the boats dictated a seasonal lifestyle. Living near their sources of employment, on land they weren't required to purchase, was ideal for many shipyard residents. Many occupied the area in the summer months when work was available, and departed in the autumn to find work elsewhere. Living on BYN Co. land was tolerated because these individuals were essential to the operation and well being of the company. After incorporation as a city in 1950, Whitehorse administrators began to look disfavourably on the waterfront area and its over 700 residents. This was a time when Whitehorse was experiencing a severe housing shortage, and the waterfront did provide some alternative to the privately owned, and unavailable, housing in town. Click mouse here for more. In 1957, the government amended the Territorial Lands Act, thus allowing for squatter removal from all waterfront and escarpment areas. This proved a difficult and inappropriate undertaking. In the 1960's alternative sites were offered to the squatters, along with the costs of relocating their dwellings to these leased or private lots. The sites were located in Porter Creek, Crestview, Lot 19 (near the claybanks at the south end of town) and along the Alaska Highway. Most often, they were not viable locations for those squatters who could not afford to lease or purchase a lot. The option of Lot 19 failed to materialize altogether when Whitehorse voters defeated its proposal in 1961/62 plebiscites. Many squatters opted for these sites, or were removed from the area. The city created a "Transient Area" in the Marwell Industrial area as a "temporary" location for squatters' buildings which were below standards for relocation in the proposed subdivisions, but many houses remained here well into the 1970's. In 1987, a squatter policy was enacted, which outlined the rights of waterfront residents to pursue ownership of the land on which their dwellings were located. Squatters were offered life-long leases, pending the settlement of land claims negotiations.
Character Defining Elements
The character defining elements of the hotel include:
- the exposed round log construction with interior side hewn flat and V-notched rear corners
- hawsers used as chinking between the logs
- architectural elements such as the medium pitched gable roof, roof purlins, ridge pole, plank sheathing, hexagonal asphalt shingles
- gable roofed frame addition extending from one end with board and batten gable end
- original window and door openings with exterior trim, hand crafted windows
- early interior finishes including built in cabinets and hand crafted furniture
- collection of archival materials and artefacts that belonged to John Hatch
- location and siting within the small cluster of buildings remaining from the squatter community, including the proximity to the river and Pioneer Hotel 1
Description of Boundaries
Portion 1, Lot 8 (Rem) Group 5 (804) Plan 99-0056 Land Titles Office YT
Historical Sources Location
--biographical information on E.A. Dixon.
--11 frames of B&W negatives, 1979, credit D. Peacock
--Dobrowolsky, H. and R. Ingram. Edge of the River Heart of the City. Lost Moose: Whitehorse, 1994
--photo 262, Arthur Vogee collection, view of Pioneer Rooms on Front Street
--photo 4093, MacBride Museum collection
--photo 4636, Atlin Historical Society collection
--Squatter eviction key to Waterfront land deal, 1994-09-07
--"These buildings should be preserved", 1992-01-29
--"Squatters hope area can be saved", 1988-05-14
One-storey log structure (east portion) and frame structure (west portion) with gable roof. Log/wood sill foundation; asphalt roof shingles.
The Pioneer Hotel was originally located on the east bank of the Yukon River under the name of the Savoy Hotel. It was built and run by Edward Algernon Dixon, an ex-NWMP officer who had piloted boats through the Whitehorse Rapids in 1898 and 1899. In 1900, the building was moved to Front Street and renamed the Pioneer Hotel. It was possibly the first building in the new townsite of Whitehorse. Dixon sold the hotel to ex-NWMP Sergeant Pringle. He ran it for six months before selling it to James Smart, who had assisted Dixon in its construction. Pringle went on to open Pringle's Stables on Main Street. The hotel had various subsequent owners under the name The Pioneer Rooms.
By the 1950's the hotel was purchased by Max Kushner, dismantled, moved to Moccasin Flats, and divided into three pieces. One of the cabins was destroyed by fire. This portion of the original hotel building was occupied by John Hatch.
file 3630 50 13 Historic Sites Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government