The Donnenworth House is a municipal historic site designated for its architectural and historical values.
The house, constructed in 1905, was originally a small frame building with a hip roof and a framed canvas tent attached to the rear. The tent portion was later framed over with a gable roof. These features plus the steeply pitched roofs with wood shingles, minimal eaves over short walls, drop siding, wood frame windows and a simple floor plan were common features of early twentieth century builder-style houses in Whitehorse. The Donnenworth House is distinctive because it is one of the last Whitehorse buildings retaining its original canvas and frame materials.
From 1902 to 1945, the Donnenworth House was owned by the British Yukon Land Company, a subsidiary of White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR), the major employer in Whitehorse until World War II. The British Yukon Land Company surveyed the original town site and developed the street grid. The Donnenworth House was one of their oldest Whitehorse staff houses and was rented to various tenants.
Mr. William Donnenworth and his wife lived here from 1902 until 1921 while ?Hobo Bill? Donnenworth was employed by WP&YR and its subsidiary, the British Yukon Navigation Company. Donnenworth was a stage coach driver on the Dawson-Whitehorse Overland Trail throughout the winter and a purser on the Yukon River sternwheelers during the summer. Mrs. Donnenworth operated a millinery shop from the front part of the house for several years. The proximity to the sidewalk and the central doorway, flanked by symmetrical double-hung windows embodies the mixed commercial/residential function of the building.
The Donnenworth House is in its original location and is now part of LePage Park, a landscaped public area containing three rehabilitated and municipally designated heritage buildings. The park and buildings are owned by the city. The City of Whitehorse and the current tenant of the Donnenworth House, the Yukon Historical & Museums Association, created the park to commemorate the LePage family. Mr. and Mrs. LePage were presented with the Transportation Pioneer Award and inducted into the Yukon Transportation Museum?s Transportation Hall of Fame for their role in the development of the territory.
The LePage family was the last to use the Donnenworth House as a residence, living here from 1963 until 1978. Amy "Happy" LePage and his wife Pauline, operated a network of wood cutting camps along the Yukon River that supplied fuel for the steam-driven sternwheelers until the boats stopped running in the early 1950s. Happy then worked on bridge and air strip construction projects for the Yukon's developing transportation system. He also operated a regional trucking company and the first car wash in Whitehorse.
The building was rehabilitated as office space as part of Heritage Canada Foundation's Main Street Program in 1984. At this time an attached shed at the rear of the building was removed and an addition that includes a kitchen and bathroom facilities added. Donnenworth House continues to illustrate the historic commercial and residential use of the Steele Street area.
Sources: City of Whitehorse Heritage Advisory Committee Minutes, May 1999, City of Whitehorse Bylaw 99-41, Donnenworth House, File No. 3630 50 10 Historic Sites Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government.
Character Defining Elements
The key elements which define the heritage character of the Donnenworth House include:
- Form and materials
- Exterior architectural elements such as the fenestration, roofs and wood shingles, short walls, cladding, historic wood sashes and trim
- The location and siting of the building on its lot
- Minimal setback from the sidewalk and entrance at grade on the primary façade
- Remains of canvas tent sandwiched in the walls
Description of Boundaries
Lot 14, Block 27, Plan 3807 Whitehorse
Historical Sources Location
--acc. #Y039, Historic Buildings of Whitehorse, Yukon Historical & Museum's Association, 1980, text & photographs
--seven rolls of colour negatives and contact sheets of the house under renovation,
--various snapshots of Donnenworth house under construction, no credit, ca. 1983-1985
--photograph, CIHB, Parks Canada 11-101-4-3126
--letter from Ted Wilson, former occupant of Donnenworth house re: physical description, no date
--Renovation of Donnenworth and Smith Houses--report by Ray Olsen , Architect, July 25, 1984
--transcript of "A Report on Bill Donnenworth" from Helen Horbach's history broadcast, CBC, 1984
--Donnen-worth [sic] House New Foundations --Invitation to tender and contract specifications.
--1991-08-14 "If only our old buildings could talk"
--1927-10-14 "Yukoners Have Pleasant gathering" re: Mr.&Mrs. Donnenworth
Between 1983-1985 the house was renovated extensively including a frame addition to the west and a pressure treated wood foundation/basement.
Wood frame construction with hip and gable roofs. Long H-shaped plan; pressure treated frame foundation and basement; cedar shake shingles; shiplap wood siding.
Built between 1900 and 1904, this house was a small frame building with a tent attached to the rear. The land was owned by William "Hobo Bill" Donnenworth who, in 1911-12, drove horses for the Royal Mail Service stage between Whitehorse and Dawson City. He was a purser on the steamboats Canadian and Nisutlin from 1913-15. Mrs. Donnenworth operated a small millinery shop on Main Street and later ran her business from this building. In 1963 the house became the residence of A.R. "Happy" Lepage and family. The Lepage family operated wood camps on the Yukon River for the
B.Y.N. Co. from 1928-49 and remained in the house until 1978.
In 1983, the Yukon Historical & Museums Association secured permission from the owners (Finning Tractor) to operate their walking tours from the building. In 1984, it was purchased by the City of Whitehorse, renovated extensively, and converted into the YHMA office.
The Yukon Historical & Museums Association was established in 1977 and has been the tenant in the Donnenworth house since 1985. The society was formed to create a united voice for understanding and promoting heritage and history in the Yukon. They keep apprised of issues and advocate on behalf of the Yukon’s heritage and heritage sector. The YHMA originally ran heritage walking tours from this house but, over the years, it has become more of a centre for various heritage projects and meetings.
Donnenworth House, file No. 3630 50 10 Historic Sites Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government