WHITE PASS & YUKON ROUTE RAILWAY DEPOT

Footprint of building plus 10 meters on north, east, and south sides, 0.5 meters on west side Part of Lot 4, Block 310 Plan 91-55, Whitehorse, YT

Construction Period: From 1896 to 1905        Designation Level: Municipal

The White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) Depot in Whitehorse was designated for its historic and architectural values. The railway depot is representative of the fundamental role that the WP&YR had in Whitehorse and Yukon's economic history and the development of a territory wide transportation system from the early twentieth century. Its location illustrates the historic link between the WP&YR rail and water transportation divisions.

The WP&YR Railroad was constructed in 1898-1900 to service the Klondike Gold Rush, carrying freight and passengers from the ocean port of Skagway, Alaska to the Yukon interior. WP&YR bought and surveyed the Whitehorse townsite as a typical railway town with the railway depot as the focal point at the two main intersecting streets. The transportation industry was essential to the economic growth and stability of the isolated territory with long distances between communities.

The original WP&YR Depot was constructed in 1900 but burned in the 1905 fire that destroyed downtown Whitehorse. The replacement structure constructed in 1905 was less adorned and smaller than its predecessor. It underwent several additions and alterations to respond to the changing requirements of its occupants. The roof line changed from a traditional style with a two story hipped gable central block with one story hipped gable wings to a 2 story low pitched gable extending the length of the building. The simple plan, stick sign, simulated log cabin siding and wood-shingled roof contribute to the building's northern rustic appearance. The deep canopy skirting the building at the second floor level and large neon sign on the roof add to the visual impact of the property. The open, wood paneled lobby area and large ticket office window demonstrate an original function of the building.

The freighting industry changed after 1942 with the war time construction of the Alaska Highway and the end of large scale river transport with the completion of roads into the interior in the mid 1950s. The freight yards in Whitehorse gradually moved from the downtown waterfront up to the Alaska Highway. The WP&YR Depot remained as the main office and head of operations until 1982 when the rail division shut down. Purchased by the Yukon Government in 1987, the building has undergone extensive rehabilitation and is now leased as office space.

Source: Minutes from Whitehorse Heritage Advisory Committee Meeting 2001-07, Thursday Sept. 20, 2001

City of Whitehorse By-law 2001-66

Character Defining Elements

- Location and setting

- Rectangular footprint except for the dispatch bay on the trackside

- Exterior architectural elements that illustrate its function and contribute to its northern rustic appearance such as the log cabin siding, wood shingled roofs, deep canopy encircling the building, platforms, and the spacing and sizing of wood door and window openings

- Spatial configuration and interior finishes of the main entrance and lobby area, and the central stairway to the second floor

- Fixed vault on the second floor; mobile vault on the first floor

- Neon "White Pass & Yukon Route" sign on the roof

- Rustic stick "Whitehorse Yukon" sign on the street facade

Description of Boundaries

Footprint of building plus 10 meters on north, east, and south sides, 0.5 meters on west side Part of Lot 4, Block 310 Plan 91-55, Whitehorse, YT

Historical Sources Location

YHMA Collection:

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

--Photo. W.P. & Y.R. Depot - view of south-east corner of depot.

--Photo. W.P. & Y.R. Depot - view of depot from Main Street.

--Photo. W.P. & Y.R. Depot - view of depot from Yukon River.

--"The Story of the White Pass & Yukon Route" by W.D. MacBride.

--W.P. & Y.R. Copy from photo display text.

Archives:

--Photo. #3180, Pedersen Photo, Dennett Collection - view north on front Street. c.1920.

--Photo. #5556, H.C. Barley Collection. View of W.P. & Y.R. depot. June 1901

--Photo. #50 (temp.) Acc. # 82/344. William Puckett Collection. View of W.P. & Y.R. depot. c.1903

--Photo. #103, Arthur Vogee Collection. Exterior of terminal under construction; viewed across river. 1900.

--Photo. #263, 264D, White Pass Depot. 1900.

Renovation Information

Extension to the second storey and placement of log siding to the exterior:1950's.

1998 new roof, new windows, interior renovations

exterior painted

Demolition Information

Original depot destroyed by fire in 1905. Depot reconstructed within two months.

Cultural History

The depot is located at the foot of Main Street, and is the second depot to occupy the site. The first depot, constructed in October 1900, was formally and aesthetically consistent with the architecture of small town depots scattered across Canada in the early part of the century. It accommodated the WP&YR offices, a customs house, and the North-West Mounted Police station.

Construction of the White Pass&Yukon Route railroad commenced in 1898 in Skagway, Alaska. It reached Lake Bennett in 1899 where goods were shipped down lakes and rivers to Whitehorse. A link to Whitehorse was completed in 1900. In 1901, the British Yukon Navigation Company, a subsidiary of WP&YR, established a river route between Whitehorse and Dawson City. The company created the supply line for the entire Yukon Territory. Whitehorse became the major operational base for the company's rail and water transportation system. WP&YR supplied many jobs and attracted other commercial ventures to the community. Through another subsidiary created in 1900, the British Yukon Land Company, the company controlled the sale or lease of property in Whitehorse.

The WP&YR station was destroyed in 1905 by a fire that ravaged most of Whitehorse's business community, and a new building was constructed on the same site within two months. The new depot lacks the characteristic architecture of its earlier version, perhaps because of the haste and necessity of its construction. The building was expanded between 1935 and 1938 with small extensions made to the upper floor on the north and south sides. In 1943, a new addition on the north end was constructed for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Army had leased the railway and depot to support war time construction projects such as the Alaska Highway and the Canol Road. In 1953 an addition was added to the south end and major repairs were done to the foundation, windows, flooring, exterior doors, roofing and log cabin siding was put up as exterior cladding over the existing 1X6" bevelled siding. During the early 1970s, aluminum storm windows were installed and the foundation was repaired. The building remained in use as a depot until the railway ceased operations in 1982. In 1987 the property was purchased by Yukon Government and in 1998, the building underwent major interior renovations. Office space is currently (2006) leased from Property Management Agency, Yukon Government.

Documentation Location

Heritage Resources, Department of Tourism and Culture, Government of Yukon, file #3450-52-01-01

Building Style

The White Pass&Yukon Route Depot is a two story platform framed wooden structure with a wood shingled medium-gable roof. The floor plan is rectangular with a small bay at ground floor level of the east wall near the south end. The exterior walls are clad with log cabin siding and trimmed with corner boards. A wide low sloped canopy roof skirts the building at the second floor level to provide protection from the weather for freight and passengers on the open platform. Window and door openings have narrow wood trim. The platform and foundation are poured concrete.