These Old Buildings Can Talk

If you were around Main Street doing errands today, there’s a fairly good chance you visited one.

If you reside in the downtown area, you may even live in one.

The heritage buildings in Whitehorse are home to a wide range of services: restaurants, retail stores, offices and entertainment. And, yes, many are private residences.

The Yukon Historical and Museums Association’s walking tour makes the history of these buildings come alive. In just 45 minutes, the friendly guide will point out numerous points of interest, introduce you to colourful characters from the past and show you how a tent city became a capital city.

It all begins at Donnenworth House on 3rd Avenue at Lepage Park. This house, in its early days over a hundred years ago, was a small frame building with a tent attached at the back. “Hobo Bill” drove the mail stage between Whitehorse and Dawson City. His wife made fabulous hats.

The door will be open and, while you are waiting for the tour to begin, there is time to browse inside.

This summer’s exhibit is entitled Through the Yukoner’s Lens: Eye on Heritage. It showcases photographs taken by Yukoners of favourite heritage sites located throughout the territory, not just in Whitehorse.

A small gift shop sells limited-edition reprints of historical maps, heritage books, postcards and pins.

Our guide, Lessia, was easily identified by her period costume: an ankle-length skirt and high-necked blouse with gathered long sleeves and lace panels.

Today’s small group was composed of a local from Whitehorse, two friends from Vancouver, a couple from California and a German Shepherd from somewhere north of Sacramento.

Our small entourage wandered around Lepage Park. The Smith House, the new home of the City of Whitehorse tourism department, was named after Jack Smith. Although he only stayed in the Yukon two years and never paid off the house, he still managed to have a building named after him.

With a short stop at the T.C. Richards Building for a few colourful tales, we made a stop at the Klondike Airways Building. Now a popular restaurant, Klondike Rib & Salmon Barbecue, it was once a mail and freight delivery business … that never owned a plane.

“They never owned a plane? Why was the company called an “Airway?” asked our visitors from California.

“Well, they had hoped to buy a plane.”

With our four-legged friend in the lead, we crossed the street and stopped to breathe in the wonderful scent of the abundant spring blooms of the historic Mayday tree located at City Hall. We wandered past the McBride Museum, Horwood’s Mall and the Old Firehall. Pointing out those and various other buildings, our guide shared snippets of history as well as current updates.

Continuing on via the Log Skyscraper, our tour wrapped up at the Old Log Church. Each heritage building holds a small piece of the history and the stories of the people who built them and lived in them.

For further information contact YHMA at 667-4704 or visit

Self-guided walking tour books and custom itineraries are also available.

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE [email protected]

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