The Story of the Château Jomini

Château is the French word for castle, a word that evokes images of tall stone towers, wooden drawbridges, the European countryside, and maybe even brave knights on white horses.

If you visit the town of Faro however, that word will evoke something different. The Château Jomini stands proudly overlooking the valley on Kitza Avenue, just across from the visitor centre.

The Château is a complex of four buildings, three stories high, all connected by a walkway and built by the Cyprus Anvil Mining Company to house a whole bunch of single guys – workers employed at the mine.

Jim McLachlan, long time resident and operation manager for the Town of Faro, remembers well the evolution of the building.

“The building was constructed in the summer of 1976,” he says. “This date is absolutely fixed in my mind as very precise because I remember the pile drivers working up until 10:30 or 11 o’clock at night.”

On the original blueprints the building was simply called the Single Men’s Residence Complex. It was later renamed after Harry Jomini, a civil engineer with the mining company. He was well known for his strong management skills and for completing projects on time and on budget.

The 2×4 wood frame structure includes three wings and a recreation building where the communal rooms were kept accessible to all residents. These rooms included the kitchen, the main dining room and a smaller private dining room for intimate meals. Men could also enjoy leisure time in the common lounges or spend time playing darts in the basement recreation room.

Each wing could accommodate more than 40 workers in single-occupancy bedrooms.

The guys were in the fortunate situation of only having one person to blame if the toilet got clogged, because each miner shared a bathroom with only one other guy. Each fellow would share the facilities with his next-door neighbour via a common commode, which was only accessible from the inside of both bedrooms.

In 1984, the building met its current fate, bathrooms and all.

The building was closed because Cyprus Anvil was looking to reduce operational costs. At that time, the company was subsidizing the housing and the workers were paying only $2.75 per day for room and board in the Château Jomini.

Almost 30 years later the Château is still boarded up. At one point vandalism was a problem and plywood sheet were nailed to the window to prevent any additional damage.

The art class from the Del Van Gorder School painted the plywood with bright colours to match the original building colours. The result is an aging building that doesn’t look too neglected.

Vegetation is slowly reclaiming the yard, however. Wild strawberries, fireweed and willow shrubs grow happily on what was once the front and backyard. The remaining chain link fence can still be seen around the many entrances of the building and old car plugs can still be found.

The building was transferred to the Yukon Government when the mine started running into financial troubles, and many ideas have been brought to the table in an attempt to give it a second chance, but none have ever come to fruition.

Hopefully one day Faro’s castle will once again be full of wet Sorel boots in the entrance and laughter in the recreation room.

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