State and Federal Agencies Show an Interest
The authorization of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was the result of a long, complex series of actions by state and federal bureaucrats that began in 1961. Increasing knowledge of gold rush history and the abundant evidence reflecting it brought increased pressure to preserve the area as a unit of the National Park Service system. The area, however, was difficult to preserve because it entailed two communities--one in Alaska, another in Washington state--and rural land owned by several public and private entities. Co-operation with various Canadian representatives was also needed. By the time the proposed park was presented to Congress, the bill enjoyed a broad base of public support. The complexities of creating a workable park plan delayed the park's authorization until June 1976.
The State of Alaska showed its first sustained interest in the history of the Klondike gold rush in early 1961. The Division of Lands, in the state's Department of Natural Resources, and the Division of Youth and Adult Authority, in the Department of Health and Welfare, cooperated in the reopening of the Chilkoot Trail.
The chief instigator of the project was Charles W. Pfeiffer, the Director of the state's Youth and Adult Authority. (The Y&AA served as the state's corrections department from 1960 to 1968.) The authority operated a Youth Conservation Camp and School for delinquent boys in Wasilla. In order to provide them a structured work environment, it sought outside projects that offered long-term recreational benefits. Pfeiffer felt that the Chilkoot Trail would be an excellent demonstration project for his division, so he arranged for a meeting during the winter of 1960-61 with Thomas Murton, his assistant, and Michael Leach of the Division of Lands in the state's Department of Natural Resources. (As noted below, the Division of Lands was involved because the state was on the verge of applying for most of the Taiya River valley as part of the 102.5 million acres Congress had granted it in the 1958 Alaska statehood act.) Leach, who was the division's one-man Branch of Forestry, Parks, and Recreation in southeastern Alaska, soon became an enthusiastic advocate of the proposal. The Y&AA was to provide and supervise labor, while the Division of Lands would provide technical direction. Pfeiffer followed his meeting by travelling to Skagway and discussing the project with various local citizens. 
Project work began on May 15, 1961. On that day, Murton and Richard Branton of the Youth and Adult Authority discussed the project with Leach and Charles Mehlert, both of whom worked for the Division of Lands in Juneau. The four travelled to Skagway, and the following day they continued on to Dyea and began flagging the proposed route. Guided by Emil Hanousek, a Dyea resident who was familiar with the trail corridor, the group hiked up the east side of the valley to the site of Canyon City, flagging as they went. The following day, they continued on to Sheep Camp. They then returned to Dyea and left the area.
The trailblazers were unsure as to whether the path they followed was the same as that followed by the gold rush stampeders. Hanousek had told them that "an old wagon road which began at Dyea and proceeded along the river on the west bank of the river to Canyon City was, in fact, the location of the original trail." Because they had not followed that route, Leach urged that the route be located so as to be historically authentic. When the work crews arrived, however, they eschewed Leach's suggestion and merely followed the flags. The route they pioneered that summer is, with minor exceptions, the same one still used today. 
The Y&AA's original intention was to limit its participation to eight delinquent boys, aged 14 to 18. By the time work began, however, two groups of offenders--one youth, one adult--had been enlisted. Nine youths began work June 9; adults, who hailed from jails in Juneau and Ketchikan, arrived three days later. Both groups, led by Russel Lowell, had completed their work by July 20. 
The crews had accomplished a great deal during their summer's work. They had brushed out a trail from the east side of the steel bridge, at Dyea, to a point one-half mile south of Sheep Camp. In addition, they had installed a 500-foot tram cable across the Taiya River just north of the West Creek Bridge. The cable allowed work crews to haul equipment up the trail without having to ascend "Saintly Hill," just north of the steel bridge. Many of the improvements, however, were basic, and some--such as the cable crossing--were wiped out that year by the rising Taiya River waters.  Despite those losses, however, both the Division of Youth and Adult Authority and the Division of Lands were pleased with the work. Both agencies looked forward to continued trail work. Y&AA officials discovered, however, that some juveniles were reluctant to perform the assigned work; besides, there were many restrictions imposed on the use of juveniles. In future years, only adult work crews would be used. 
During the 1930s, as noted in Chapter 2, the idea of an NPS area in Skagway and vicinity had first been suggested. During the 1950s, occasional flickers of new interest were seen. In the early 1960s, that interest was renewed and expanded as part of a statewide survey. That survey was one element in the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, a nationwide effort to identify and evaluate important historical sites.
The National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings (NSHSB)--known more informally as the Historic Sites Survey--was a creature of the Historic Sites Act of August 21, 1935, which was intended "to lay a broad legal foundation for a national program of preservation and rehabilitation of historic sites." Secretary Harold L. Ickes, who testified in favor of the Act, advocated "a thorough survey of all historic sites in the country...on the basis of their national and local significance," and perhaps as a result, the Act directed the Secretary of the Interior to "[m]ake a survey of historic and archaeologic sites, buildings, and objects for the purpose of determining which possess exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States." There was no indication, in the bill's language, that sites so nominated would be included in the National Park Service system. Even so, the framers of the Act envisioned that most of those places found to possess national significance (or "exceptional value") would be acquired by the Service. 
The completion of the necessary surveys was entrusted to the agency's newly-formed Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings. Survey work began in late 1936. Initial work took place in Washington, but with the creation of the first four regional offices in 1937, survey work was transferred to the field. By late 1941 eight studies had been completed. Some 560 historic sites had been identified, 229 of which were found to be nationally significant; in addition, an archeological inventory had identified 334 sites, of which 31 were found to be nationally significant. World War II halted survey activity, but the Mission 66 program brought forth renewed interest. The Historic Sites Survey began again in late 1957. 
In 1961, the National Park Service funded a special historic sites survey for Alaska. That study was composed of a general background narrative and a series of historical site evaluations. The narrative was prepared by Dr. Benjamin F. Gilbert of San Jose State College, while the site materials were written by Charles Snell, a historian assigned to the Region Four office in San Francisco. Snell endeavored to visit as many sites as he could that summer, and travelled 13,000 miles in 34 days in pursuit of that goal. 
In early July, Snell visited upper Lynn Canal. He evaluated both the Skagway and Taiya River valleys and identified two historic districts: Skagway and White Pass, and Chilkoot Pass and Dyea. He discussed the importance of each in the context of the Klondike Gold Rush, and described the condition of both districts. Of Dyea, he noted that
He also climbed to the summit of Chilkoot Pass--thanks, in part, to the efforts of a State trail crew--and noted that "the Chilkoot trail and pass have also returned to a state of nature and are unimpaired by modern intrusions. The general trace of the route is still visible through much of its course."  Of Skagway, he noted that "approximately 100 original buildings still stand...that date from the great gold rush days... These surviving structures are the finest examples of the mining frontier town, 1897-1910, in Alaska." Snell noted that "the heaviest concentration of the old buildings is to be found on Broadway Street, between First and Sixth Avenues," and specifically listed as important the White Pass depot, the Arctic Brotherhood hall, the "old Federal Court Building," and the saloon once occupied by outlaw "Soapy" Smith. 
Snell, in his report, listed both historic districts as being "sites of exceptional value" and thus worthy to be nominated as historic sites. That determination, however, was left up to the nine-member Consulting Committee for the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings. The Consulting Committee screened Snell's site reports and gave its recommendations to the eleven-member Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments. The Advisory Board, which was created as part of the 1935 Historic Sites Act, met in late April and early May of 1962. It declared that Skagway and White Pass historic district possessed exceptional value and "that sites in Skagway (Historic District) be considered as possible additions to the National Park System." It made no such recommendation regarding the Chilkoot Pass and Dyea area. Those recommendations were forwarded to Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, who on June 13, 1962 declared Skagway Historic District and White Pass area to be eligible for National Historic Landmark (NHL) designation. 
The Skagway and White Pass area was one of the state's first sites declared to be an eligible National Historic Landmark. The first NHLs in Alaska--two archeological sites along the western Alaska coastline--were declared in January 1961. Skagway and White Pass, along with four other properties (two in Sitka, one in Kodiak, and one on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs) were the next Alaskan properties to join the list. 
Although the Advisory Board gave a mixed evaluation of the two sites Snell had identified at the head of Lynn Canal, Udall's declaration of the Skagway-White Pass area as an NHL signalled the federal government's interest in the area.  As noted above, the NSHSB's identification of historical sites was considered to be the first step toward their inclusion in the National Park Service system. Momentum, however slight, toward creating Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park had begun.
The work accomplished on the Chilkoot Trail in the summer of 1961 proved so successful that the project was continued. In 1962, Y&AA officials hoped that the trail would be brought up to U.S. Forest Service standards. In order to carry on its work, the Authority brought in a crew from the newly-constructed Adult Conservation Camp near Palmer. That crew erected another tram crossing at the site of the previous year's washout. Led by Don Davis, the prisoners spent most of June and July working from a Canyon City base camp, and by the end of their season they had improved the trail as far as Canyon City. Accomplishments included a three-mile trail relocation around the unsightly Hosford millsite. Later, however, the existing logging road past the mill was improved, courtesy of a rented bulldozer, and the rerouted trail was abandoned thereafter. Workers also erected a 16' x 20' shelter cabin near Canyon City, replaced the Slide Cemetery headboards, and cleaned up the Dyea (Native) Cemetery. 
In 1963, work continued farther up the trail. Major work consisted of improving the trail from Canyon City to timberline, a mile above Sheep Camp, building a cable bridge across the Taiya River at Canyon City, and constructing a shelter cabin near Sheep Camp similar in design to that which had been constructed a year before near Canyon City. By summer's end, the trail had been improved to a standard acceptable to both the Youth and Adult Authority and the Division of Lands. During the trail construction period, about forty people had hiked over the trail. 
William A. Egan, Alaska's governor, reacted to the trail's completion by trying to arrange a well-publicized inaugural hike over the trail during late July 1964, much as had been done for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal ten years earlier. He invited conservationist and Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas and Interior Secretary Stewart L. Udall to take part in that hike. (Douglas was one of several high-ranking officials who had taken part in the C&O Canal hike.) Udall, however, had to decline Egan's invitation; perhaps for that reason, the hike was never held. 
After 1963, Y&AA work crews returned to the trail each summer. The crews, led by Don Davis or Lee Morrison, were involved in such tasks as bridge repair, maintenance of the trail tread, and the installation of mileage and directional signs. They also, in 1965, installed a series of trailside markers indicated each half mile of trail. (These, however, must not have remained long because, as noted in Chapter 4, a new set of mileage markers was installed eight years later.) They did not, however, attempt to maintain the hand tram across the Taiya. By the late 1960s, solo hikers found it almost impossible to use; by 1972 the cables were teetering and unusable; and by 1974, the system was "down and beyond use." 
These crews, which continued to be led by Don Davis, camped along the trail each year until 1968; thereafter, they were replaced by crews from DNR's Division of Lands or the Division of Parks.  During this period, the recreational use of the trail remained fairly limited, and as late as 1969 only about 100 people traversed the route each year. Those who went, however, were often destructive to the resource. When the trail was first opened to recreational hikers, thousands of horseshoes and other gold rush remains were scattered along the trail. But as Rep. Mike Miller noted in a 1979 letter, "virtually everyone who hiked the trail [during the 1960s] brought home at least one or two light souvenirs of his or her trip. Because so many of us did so, however, there are now no such items along the way for present visitors to see and enjoy." By 1973, when NPS rangers began working along the trail, so many artifacts had been lost that the rangers urged their superiors to abandon plans that would have restored the trail to its historical right-of-way (see Chapter 4). 
In 1963, new evidence of Federal interest in the Skagway area surfaced. Sigurd Olson, the well-known Minnesota wildlife biologist, author, and conservationist, was also a member of the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments. In his advisory capacity, he had played a role in the nomination of the Skagway and White Pass area as a National Historic Landmark. In the summer of 1963, Olson and NPS official Theodor (Ted) Swem visited the Skagway area and hiked up part of the Chilkoot Trail. Impressed with what he saw, Olson wrote to Mike Leach, of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and urged that "the first two or three blocks of Broadway Street" be set aside. Leach shared Olson's enthusiasm for the preservation of the area's gold rush history, but warned him of the difficulty in purchasing several city blocks. He also told Olson that "in order to tell the complete story of the Gold Rush, we will need the assistance of the Department of Interior, Canada and the City of Skagway." Olson promised to recommend that the Advisory Board study the matter more closely. 
In 1965, perhaps at the recommendation of the Advisory Board, historian Charles Snell wrote a revised, expanded nomination form to the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings.  Shortly after the form was completed, the Advisory Board, accompanied by NPS Director George Hartzog, Assistant Director Swem, Rep. Roy Taylor (D-NC), Rep. Ralph Rivers (D-AK) and other officials, visited the Skagway area. While there they visited Dyea, the museum, and other local attractions. The local newspaper editor, Cy Coyne, noted that the Board "appeared impressed with the history of the area and what present-day citizens were doing to retain a place in the visitor world." Several Board members had also visited Skagway three years earlier and remembered that their recommendations were instrumental in the area being declared a Registered National Historic Landmark; the state, however, had not yet made use of that designation. Stanley Cain, an Assistant Secretary of the Interior and a trip participant, spoke for the Board when he observed that "It will take a national effort to restore and properly preserve this historic district. Perhaps NPS should find a way to do this." 
Shortly after his return to Washington, Congressman Rivers began to express interest in an expanded federal role. In a letter to Director Hartzog, he outlined eight development projects that the agency should consider "to meet the needs of the rising tide of visitors to Alaska," three of which dealt with the Skagway area. First, he asked the NPS to "explore with Canadian authorities the possible establishment of an International Historic District embracing Skagway, the Chilkoot and White passes, and the Klondike District"--in other words, a sort of trans-border National Historic Landmark. Second, he asked the NPS to "consider discussions with Canadian authorities toward the establishment of an international park with Canada." Finally, he hoped that the NPS would "prepare recommendations for Federal participation in the restoration and preservation of the historic community of Skagway." 
Perhaps in response to Rivers' request, the NPS decided to study the Skagway area in greater detail.  That study, however, was delayed for over two years. In the meantime, legislative interest grew in the area's gold rush history. In the U.S. Senate, Henry Jackson (D-WA) and Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) introduced a bill in early 1967 which would have encouraged a nationwide system of trails. The bill included a mandate that the Alaskan gold rush trails be studied for inclusion into the system. Congress passed the bill, known as S. 827, and on October 2, 1968 President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the National Trails System Act (P.L. 90-543). The officials asked to carry out the terms of the act specified that Chilkoot and White Pass would be two of the seven trails studied in Alaska. Neither trail, however, received study funding as a result of the bill's passage. 
The State of Alaska, it should be noted, also began to plan for the area's use as a parkland. In 1966 Mike Leach of the Division of Lands wrote a Plan for the Development of the Skagway-Dyea Natural, Historical, Recreational Complex. The plan identified areas of interest and importance in the area, reported what had been accomplished thus far, served as a guideline for future development, and served as a repository for additional information. It recommended, among other things, that the state interpret the historical sites along the trail and that it establish a visitor center in Dyea. It did not, however, recommend the establishment of a state park, due to financial considerations. The state, as it turned out, ignored both of the report's recommendations. The existence of the plan, however, signalled that the state recognized the area's resources and was interested in protecting them. 
The NPS's increasing interest in the Skagway area coincided with a significant increase in local tourism. Skagway residents were becoming aware of the importance of their history, and both public and private entities began to take steps toward its preservation.
Throughout the postwar period, Alaska had experienced an increasing volume of tourists. In the late 1940s, tourist facilities and tours had been minimal, but by the 1960s entrepreneurs had developed a broadening network of hotels, gift shops, transportation facilities and related amenities. 
There were relatively few ways, however, for tourists to visit Skagway. Many tourists drove the Alaska Highway, then took the White Pass and Yukon Route railway south from Whitehorse or Carcross. Others flew in from Juneau on an Alaska Airlines Twin Otter which served Skagway on a daily basis, weather permitting.  But the only maritime vessels visiting Skagway in the early 1960s were the Prince George, a small Canadian National cruise ship serving the Inside Passage since 1948; the Princess Kathleen and the Princess Louise, Canadian Pacific ships which began their tenure during the mid-1950s; the Glacier Queen and the Yukon Star, from Chuck West's Alaska Cruise Line, which had served the port since 1957; and the M/V Chilkat, a small ferry which connected Skagway with Haines and Juneau. 
The increasing demand for tourist travel to southeastern Alaska made it imperative that new ships be found. In order to give residents and visitors an inexpensive way to travel between the southeastern ports, Alaska voters in the November 1960 election approved the formation of the Alaska Marine Highway System. The new system, which brought new ships and sent the Chilkat elsewhere, was inaugurated in May 1963. New ships included the M/V Taku, the M/V Matanuska, the M/V Malaspina, and several smaller ferries. The local newsletter editor predicted that the ferries would bring forth a "second Klondike gold rush" which would "flood the town" with visitors. 
Skagway also began to see additional cruise ships. In 1963 the Canadian Pacific replaced the Princess Louise with the Princess Patricia.  Chuck West and his Alaska Cruise Line also arranged for a third ship, the Polar Star, to serve the gold rush city. More cruise ships joined the fray in 1969. 
In order to cater to the growing numbers of visitors, local residents began to open new tourist facilities. In 1961, the Trail of '98 Museum, under the direction of Paul Sincic, opened in the old Court House building.  Five years later, lifelong resident George Rapuzzi reopened the long-dormant Soapy Smith Museum. The arch-villain's former saloon had been located on the south side of Sixth Avenue since April 1916, but in May 1963 Paul Cyr, a White Pass employee, moved it to its present location on Second Avenue. Rapuzzi, a recently-retired White Pass mechanic, fixed up the old building, and featured on his tour many gadgets which Martin Itjen had first used when he conducted tours during the 1930s.  Chuck West of Westours, needing a place to accommodate the extra travelers he brought, built the 30-unit Klondike Hotel in early 1967. 
Another event which shed light on the area's history was the Alaska Purchase Centennial. The centennial process, which began in 1963, made Alaskans throughout the state more aware of their history. The most obvious event connected to the centennial was the construction of a large fairgrounds in Fairbanks. Thousands of people visited the fair during the summer of 1967 and enjoyed its atmosphere. Much of this was due to the presence of the S.S. Nenana, a Yukon River steamboat, and to the numerous log cabins which had been moved to the site from elsewhere in the Tanana River valley. But the centennial also had a lasting effect elsewhere in the state because each town had its own centennial committee and designed its own projects.
Skagway was an active participant in the centennial celebration. The Skagway Centennial Committee was formed in the summer of 1963 and remained until early 1968. During that period, the committee considered several ideas for a major state-supported facility and finally received funding for the Dahl Memorial Health Clinic, which was constructed in 1968 at the corner of Eleventh Avenue and Broadway. 
Skagway's citizens also undertook many historical restoration projects during the centennial period. The Skagway Women's Club, for example, provided a new foundation, a new roof, and 1898-style interior decor for the municipally-owned Arctic Brotherhood Hall; it then opened an information and tourist center in the building.  Jack Kirmse, a jeweler and curio shop owner, restored the old Moore cabin in 1964. Business owners, using their own funds, renovated the old Canadian Pacific Railway ticket office (today's Trail Bench gift shop), the Golden North Hotel, Dedman's Photo Shop, the Sweet Tooth Saloon, Skagway Hardware, the Red Onion Saloon, and Moe's Frontier Bar.  The city renovated the old court house building, and Engine 52, the WP&YR's first locomotive, was hauled into town from the Atlin area.  Window displays were placed in several vacant buildings, and the Gold Rush Cemetery was renovated and cleaned. City fathers, despite a "strong local movement" to lay cement sidewalks along Broadway, decided to continue the use of the same type of wooden walks which had been laid along Broadway since the gold rush period.  Some of these projects were funded, in whole or in part, with centennial funds, but most had little or no relation to centennial activities.
It should be noted that tourism was not the only aspect of Skagway's economy that boomed during the 1960s. The White Pass and Yukon Route boomed as well, largely because of mining developments taking place in Yukon Territory. Large mines had been opening in the Yukon since the late 1950s, but the mine which had the largest impact on Skagway's fortunes was the Cyprus Anvil development at Faro. This silver-lead-zinc deposit, located 200 road miles north of Whitehorse, was discovered in 1965. Large-scale processing commenced two years later. A key part of the development agreement was the decision to send the ore out via Skagway. To do so, trucks hauled the ore from the mine south to Whitehorse. The ore was then transferred to the railroad, where specially-designed ore cars brought the freight to tidewater. 
The increased load requirements brought about by the Cyprus Anvil contract necessitated the strengthening of many of the railroad's bridges and culverts. The huge "steel bridge," two miles south of White Pass summit, was unable to be strengthened and had to be abandoned; it was replaced by a tunnel and a smaller bridge. In Skagway, the railroad contractors filled in the town's huge tidal flats and converted it into a flat, open industrial zone. Most of that area remained empty, but at its southwestern end the railroad built an enormous ore terminal to store the powdery concentrate. It also built the Anvil dock and a conveyor-belt assembly apparatus to transfer the ore from terminal to ship. 
A statewide project which began during the centennial period was a series of bronze historical markers. The members of the local centennial committee recognized that Skagway was one of Alaska's major historical centers, and at one point drew up a list of 16 local historical sites. Costs, however, demanded that only 33 sites in the state be chosen. Skagway was favored with four historical markers: at the Arctic Brotherhood Hall, at the Trail of '98 Museum (McCabe College), in front of White Pass Engine No. 52, and near First Avenue and State Street, where Soapy Smith and Frank Reid had their duel. In addition, it was decided that a marker be placed near the summit of Chilkoot Pass. 
The idea of having a centennial-based ceremony commemorating the 1898 stampeders arose in February 1964. George Benesch, a Juneau Boy Scout leader, expressed interest in having the scouts take part in a dedication ceremony at the summit. Herb Adams, Executive Director of the Alaska Purchase Centennial Commission, liked the proposal.  By 1966, officials began working on the details of the event. Those who had been attending the international centennial meetings hoped to make the commemoration a jointly-sponsored endeavor, and Governor Egan, hoping to publicize the dedication, invited Secretary Stewart Udall once again to hike over the Chilkoot. Sen. Ernest Gruening also invited Udall, and promised to accompany him. Those who participated in the summit ceremony would dedicate a bronze centennial plaque which would be installed shortly before the ceremony. 
In the plan which was finally settled upon, three Juneau masons were helicoptered to the top of the pass on July 23; soon afterward, they erected the monument's base and installed the historical plaque. Inscribed on it were the following words:
IN 1897 KLONDIKE STAMPEDERS BY
Following the installation of the monument, on August 3, a group of 53 Juneau-area Boy Scouts and seven leaders left Juneau for the pass.  Plans called for them to be followed, a day later, by an official party. (Secretary Udall, unfortunately, would not be among them; due to the press of other business, he again had to opt out.) The two hiking parties would meet at the top of the pass on August 6; they would be met by less hearty officials, who would be flown into Crater Lake and hike the short distance to the top. The half-hour ceremony would take place beginning at 12:30 p.m. on the 6th; after the ceremony, the officials would return to Crater Lake, after which one and all would fly on to Whitehorse. The next day, officials would begin the week-long Alaska-Yukon Flotilla to Dawson. 
The monument dedication ceremonies took place as scheduled on August 6. Overambitious plans and poor weather, however, demanded major modifications in officials' plans. Although the Boy Scouts headed up the Chilkoot as scheduled, there is no evidence that an official party followed them. The weather, as it turned out, was poor on Chilkoot Pass on August 6, so officials were flown instead to the Bennett, B.C. railroad station and the dedication was held there. Just four officials--two from the Yukon, one from British Columbia, and one from Alaska--attended the dedication in front of a crowd of a hundred or so tourists. The official party was then flown to Whitehorse, and the river flotilla went on as scheduled. 
Shortly after the plaque was dedicated, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources moved to publish the first Chilkoot Trail hiker's guide. The 19-page guide, released in 1968, was written by Mike Leach and Henry Hall of the Division of Lands. It included a history of the trail, an explanation of the major historical resources found, a description of the two shelters and other improvements, and notes about the area's weather and wildlife. Inasmuch as improvements on the Canadian side of the trail began that year, the guide provided only a brief overview of (and warning about) conditions on the Canadian side. 
As noted in Chapter 2, Alcoa Aluminum Company during the early 1950s made a serious attempt to construct a hydroelectric project and aluminum manufacturing plant. Had it been constructed, the aluminum plant would have been located in the Taiya River valley; it would have resulted in a projected 4,000 jobs and a city of 20,000 people. That project died on the drawing board because of the refusal of British Columbian and Dominion interests to contribute the necessary water rights.
Alaskan development interests, however, retained an interest in the project, and refused to let it die. In April 1960, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) informed Senator Ernest Gruening that it intended to revoke the two land withdrawals which had been taken out in January 1948 and October 1952, respectively. (As noted in Chapter 2, Public Land Order 436, in 1948, had withdrawn practically all of the Taiya River valley in one 46,592 acre parcel; PLO 868, in 1952, had withdrawn approximately 7,400 acres in the area immediately surrounding Skagway.) Shortly afterwards, the Federal Power Commission let it be known that they intended to revoke the 5000-acre power site withdrawal which it had made in April 1948.  State officials, who were also contacted, thought little of it at first; as DNR chief Phil Holdsworth noted in a memorandum to Governor William A. Egan, "The[se] lands...are of no interest to the State of Alaska in connection with State water conservation plans." 
Alaska officials, however, quickly had a change of heart. They had recently become more conscious of the state's water resources because of increasing interest in the Rampart project along the Yukon River. They apparently took the BLM letter as a wake-up call and, over the next several months, attempted to interest several potential developers in the possibilities of Taiya project water. In the summer of 1960, for instance, a consultant for the Aerojet-General Corporation traveled to several Alaskan sites in search of a proposed missile fuel facility. The governor's office responded to the trip by suggesting that he include the "Dyea Valley" in his travels.  The consultant looked into the matter, only to conclude that "The tentative judgment reached so far is that major hydroelectric development in Alaska does not appear to be attractive [in comparison to thermal power costs] before 1980." 
Later that year, Gary Thurlow, an assistant attorney general for the state, became an enthusiastic advocate for the project. He noted that the Taiya River site appeared to be "the best site in the world for the cheap production of great quantities of electricity." Knowing the project's history, Thurlow suggested the possibility of an atomic energy facility instead of an aluminum plant. He suggested that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) request the construction of hydroelectric facility at that location. Thurlow felt that the Canadians might look favorably upon the use of project waters if devoted to a national defense installation.  Egan responded to Thurlow's suggestions by urging the AEC to consider the idea. The AEC, however, responded that the agency did "not have current plans for the development of new sites or of new facilities that would require large amounts of electric power...." 
Senator Gruening, who in the early 1950s had actively promoted the Taiya project, also sought someone to develop the area's water resources. He contacted an ALCOA official "wondering whether the [company] might again become a prospect to use energy in Alaska...." Several months later, he wrote ALCOA again. "I would like some counsel," he noted, "on whether the Aluminum Company of America--or any other company in your estimation--might be interested in obtaining energy from this project for use for aluminum reduction in the Skagway area." The company's response was not encouraging. Gruening, therefore, had to tell Skagway mayor Cy Coyne that ALCOA
Having exhausted those possibilities, state and federal officials moved to revoke the various land and water withdrawals. On March 6, 1961, the Federal Power Commission announced its intention to vacate the April 1948 power site withdrawal.  By this time, state officials had indicated that they would select Taiya Valley lands for themselves if the Federal land withdrawals were revoked. The Skagway Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to Senator Gruening, expressed concern that the power site revocation would jeopardize the state's ability to select Taiya Valley lands.  Gruening, however, reassured the body that state selection of Taiya Valley lands would not injure their power value. 
Based on that assurance, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, on March 30, signed Public Land Order 2317, which revoked both the 1948 and the 1952 land withdrawals. Three weeks later, Assistant Secretary of the Interior John A. Carver, Jr. signed Public Land Order 2350, which revoked the April 1948 water withdrawal subject to state selection.  PLO 2350 contained language which gave the State of Alaska until July 24 to select the lands in question before they reverted to unrestricted Federal ownership.  Given that deadline, the state applied for lands in Dyea, the Taiya Valley and vicinity on June 23. The state selected those lands, at least in part, for their recreational value; state work crews that summer had begun clearing the Chilkoot Trail (see above). But the state was also interested in the area's water development possibilities, and officials had no intention of precluding the construction of a future Taiya project should political conditions change. 
Interest in Taiya development lapsed for the next several years, and Alaskans hoping to develop the state's hydroelectric resources focused their attention on Rampart Dam, on the Yukon River. But in early 1964, the Rampart Project ran into a temporary roadblock. Morgan Reed, a Skagway resident who served in the state's House of Representatives, responded to the situation by introducing a legislative resolution (H.R. 10) on March 6 which asked that the Taiya project be revived if Rampart efforts were quashed. Reed and others recognized that the Yukon-Taiya project was second only to the Rampart project in the total electrical capacity which could be generated from northern waters; therefore, it was only logical that if the Rampart could not be built, Yukon-Taiya should. Reed was less than successful with his resolution. It passed the Resources Committee, but then got bogged down in the Rules Committee and went no further. 
That September, the Governor of Alaska, the Premier of British Columbia, and the Yukon Commissioner conferred in Whitehorse on a variety of regional issues. Ray Williston, the powerful British Columbia Minister of Lands, Forests, and Water Resources, spoke at the meeting and sounded an optimistic note when he stated that "There is no doubt that the most attractive scheme of development for [Yukon basin water] resources would be one based on the Nechako-Kitimat model with a tunnel directly to tide-water near Skagway." He recommended that a joint effort be made toward early project development. The three leaders, therefore, resolved to set up a power development commission to look into Taiya's power potential. 
A joint power committee was quickly organized. It was composed of two men: Phil Holdsworth, Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources, and A. F. Padgett, British Columbia's Deputy Minister of Water Resources (and Williston's assistant). The men met twice during the next two years and held extensive discussions about the proposed project. 
On January 27, 1967, Elton Engstrom, Jr. of Juneau, who represented Skagway in the Alaska State Senate, introduced a bill which called for the creation of the Yukon-Taiya Commission. The bill, SB 32, called for a three-member commission that would
Engstrom's bill experienced virtually no opposition. It passed the Senate on March 7 and the House on April 6, both by unanimous votes, and was signed into law by Governor Walter Hickel on April 19. 
Engstrom introduced two other Yukon-Taiya bills during the 1967 session. One, known as Senate Joint Resolution 1, "resolved that a combined Canadian-American feasibility study be initiated, resulting in the aggressive promotion of this project." The non-binding resolution passed the Senate on February 10 and the House on March 28, both by unanimous votes, and was signed by Governor Hickel on March 31. As a result, copies of the resolution were dutifully sent out to the Yukon Commissioner, the Premier of British Columbia, and the Canadian Prime Minister.  But a companion bill to finance the commission did not fare so well. SB 33, which called for a $25,000 appropriation, never got out of committee.
The following year, two major actions took place regarding the Yukon-Taiya Commission. First, the commission gained its first funding. In addition, the legislature passed a bill, SB 356, that raised the number of commission members from three to five, and stated that its duties would be simplified. (Its new purpose was to "seek the initiation of a joint United States-Canada study of the Yukon-Taiya hydroelectric project and related resources development.") Senator Engstrom introduced SB 356 in February 1968. It was approved by the Senate on March 6, by the House on April 5, and by Governor Hickel on April 23.  The commission was finally ready to begin its work.
During the same period that the Americans were making plans on how to manage lands on their side of the border, Canadians were making plans as well. The Canadians' interest in the area surrounding the Chilkoot and White passes grew in much the same way as it had on the U.S. side of the border. Corrections personnel, who hoped to clear out a recreational pathway over Chilkoot Pass, were the first to become involved; after that, park planners joined the fray and began to consider protecting the area because of its historical qualities.
Prior to the 1960s, few Canadians or Americans expressed much concern about the Chilkoot Trail. When work crews began brushing out the south end of the trail in 1961, Alaskan officials informed provincial officials in British Columbia of their actions and tried to stir up interest among them.  No response came from B.C. officials, but two years later, Canadian Federal officials began showing an interest when James R. Lotz, a research officer with Canada's Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, asked Michael Leach about trail conditions. Lotz hiked over the trail that August and penned a short report on trail conditions. He then discussed the trail with Yukon Commissioner Gordon R. Cameron, who was interested in the idea of rehabilitating the trail.  (The northern half of the trail is situated in British Columbia. B.C. officials, however, had little interest in the area, because traffic in the Skagway-Whitehorse corridor had virtually no economic impact on the province. It fell to Yukon Territory officials, therefore, to work with the Americans on this and similar area projects.)
Cameron's interest in the Chilkoot, however, did not lead to a trail restoration project. Alaskan officials, who encountered their Canadian counterparts at the annual meeting of the Alaska-BC-Yukon Centennial Committee, tried to encourage such a project. James Lotz, from Canada's Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, hiked the Chilkoot a second time and issued an updated trail guide, and other Canadian officials investigated the possibility of obtaining funds from the Historic Sites Branch. By 1966, however, those officials had told them that they were restricted to expending funds on designated park areas only. Therefore, it was doubtful that they could do anything on their section of the trail since it was not a park. 
Yukon officials, undeterred, embarked upon a new course of action. In early 1967, the Yukon Corrections Department was planning to open a new medium security institution as well as a new minimum security camp. Once the department established those operations, it hoped to be able to undertake responsibility for clearing and maintaining the Chilkoot. Upper-echelon British Columbia officials expressed no objections to the idea, and on May 8, the territory's first Corrections Director, William R. Morrow, predicted that trail work would begin shortly. But Morrow's plan bogged down because the anticipated institutions did not open as soon as he had hoped. In addition, Yukon officials had to obtain permission from British Columbia's Forestry Services branch as well as the province's Attorney General. Plans to clear the trail were postponed indefinitely. 
That summer, however, momentum tipped in the opposite direction. At Morrow's behest, Dick North and other members of the Yukon press corps spoke out against the delays and about the lack of trail improvements, and they further argued that a completed trail would generate tourism income. Readers were urged to write Kenneth Kiernan, the British Columbia Minister of Parks and Recreation, and protest the lack of a trail crew.  A month after those editorials were printed, a 61-year old Juneau woman, Verona Bowles, got lost on the trailless Canadian side; she was stranded for three days before being rescued--in good condition but hungry--by a WP&YR railroad crew. After that well-publicized incident, the Yukon news media issued a renewed call for trail work. In response, Morrow sent out a small crew from the Wolf Creek Bush Camp to mark out a likely path for recreational trail. The crew flew in to the trail corridor by helicopter over the Labour Day weekend. It discovered that "the trail was almost non-existent so an easy walking route was picked and blazed with yellow paint at about 200 foot intervals." 
Morrow kept pressing on the issue, and by the following March he was hopeful once again. In a letter to Michael Leach, he remarked that
Four months later, the trail renovation was a reality at last. Victor L. Ogison, who became Corrections Director after Morrow's death, finally got the project going. He sent a crew of three staff members--R. Gary McLaughlin, John B. Maloney, and Harry Deneron--and six inmates from the Yukon Correctional Institute to commence trail work. The crew left Whitehorse on July 18; the same day, they had established a base camp at the former site of Lindeman City. The summer's primary task was the construction of the Upper Cabin, built between July 30 to August 15.  In addition, the inmates marked a trail from Lindeman to the railroad tracks at Mile 37.4, four miles south of Bennett. They also marked another trail south to the south end of Long Lake, built a bridge over Moose Creek, and revamped the old Lindeman City graveyard. The crew returned to Whitehorse in early September. 
Ogison was so encouraged by the results of the first year's work that he laid out a long-term work plan for the trail. Noting that "the 17 miles on the U.S. side of the border took four years to complete," he postulated that there was "enough work out there to keep inmates busy three or four years." He made plans to dispatch eight inmates to the trail in 1969. 
On June 2, however, just six inmates along with two staff members returned to their previous camp. Tasks that year included the clearing of the entire Canadian portion of the trail; construction of a bridge just south of Deep Lake, a bridge at Bare Loon Lake, and three other bridges; and the erection of a "Chilkoot Trail" sign at mile 37.4. Work also began on the construction of the Lower Cabin at Lindeman Lake. The crew returned to Whitehorse on September 2. 
Groups of inmates returned to the trail each year until 1973. In 1970 they completed Lower Cabin; the following year, crews moved into it. (The new site was preferred because it provided inmates better protection from the wind, fresh water from nearby Moose Creek, and an improved boat launching area.) Beginning in 1971, crews were primarily engaged in the maintenance of the existing trail. 
The inmates' work, which was intended to popularize the Chilkoot as a recreational pathway, was an immediate success. In 1968, the Canadians' first year on the trail, fewer than one hundred hikers signed the logbook which the YCI crew had installed at Lindeman Lake. But in 1969, more than 160 hikers signed the register; in 1970, "close to 500" hiked over the trail; in 1971, between 600 and 700 made the hike, and in 1972, an estimated 800 to 1,000 hikers crossed over Chilkoot Pass.  Almost all of those that crossed the trail in those early days were independent travellers who made the entire trip on foot. Some, however, rode on horseback from Dyea to Sheep Camp. Wes Nelson, a Dyea resident, conducted horseback trips up the Chilkoot from 1966 through 1973. Others took the trip under the guidance of local resident Robert O. "Skip" Burns, whose Klondike Safaris began operating in 1970 and continued until after the creation of the park. 
During the late 1960s, when the Yukon territorial officials were taking steps to refurbish the Chilkoot Trail for recreational purposes, Canadian federal officials began to consider designating certain sites in the area because of their historical value.
Canadian involvement in preserving Klondike-era gold rush sites had begun in 1959 when the White Pass and Yukon Route donated to the federal government four sternwheelers: the S.S. Keno, S.S. Klondike, S.S. Casca, and the S.S. Whitehorse. A year later, in August 1960, the National Historic Sites Branch (NHSB) floated the S.S. Keno from Whitehorse down to Dawson; it was the only one of the four which fit under the Carmacks bridge. In 1961, the Branch repaired the old riverboat, and it was used the following year as a casino during the much-ballyhooed Dawson City Gold Rush Festival. During this early period, the NHSB also showed an interest in the old Palace Grand Theatre. The deteriorated building was declared a National Historic Site in 1959, and the Branch acquired it in 1961; soon afterward, however, it was demolished because of it was deemed unsuitable as a Dawson Festival venue. (The NHSB erected a replica in time for the festivities, which took place during the summer of 1962.)  Events also took place in Whitehorse. In 1966, as a result of recommendations of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, the S.S. Klondike was moved across town to the Whitehorse waterfront. The HSMBC designated both the Keno and the Klondike as National Historic Sites. 
In 1967, the HSMBC made an additional recommendation regarding the Chilkoot Trail. It asked
That same year, the National Historic Sites Branch began making many of the same plans as its American counterparts had earlier in the decade when, on a nationwide basis, it established a Historic Sites Planning Committee. It began to study and inventory sites soon afterward, and in the summer of 1968 the committee visited Whitehorse, Dawson, and the Klondike gold fields. In conjunction with that effort, the Branch established a staff presence. In the fall of 1967 a full-time custodian began work in Dawson; the following March, R. Bruce Harvey moved from Winnipeg to Whitehorse and became the first Superintendent of Historic Sites for the Yukon. 
By January 1968, the head of the National Historic Sites Service (NHSS), Peter Bennett, contacted American officials and indicated an interest in being informed of their park planning efforts.  The Canadians, by that time, had been working on plans for historic sites in Whitehorse, Dawson, and the Klondike creeks for some time. They had little interest in the Chilkoot; their primary goal in that sphere, as noted above, was the preservation of the Bennett church and the creation of an interpretive facility within it. Beyond that, Mr. Bennett indicated that the NHSS was "studying this chapter of Canadian history with the object of determining how best to preserve the relics and interpret the story of those exciting days." 
In May 1968, as noted below, various NPS planners travelled to Whitehorse and met with Yukon Commissioner James Smith. (Neither Bennett nor Harvey were able to join them.) Smith, who was familiar with both Federal and Territorial programs, told the team that the American study would dovetail neatly into their plans.  Thereafter, Canadian historical officials awaited the outcome of the Skagway Alternatives Study so that more concrete action could take place regarding an international park proposal.
During the summer of 1967, the long delay in beginning an NPS study of Skagway and vicinity finally came to an end. Robert Luntey, an NPS official from San Francisco, headed a small team which made a quick reconnaissance of Skagway and took the White Pass Railroad to Whitehorse.  Soon afterwards, on October 10, NPS representatives met in Juneau with Governor Hickel in a meeting which had been arranged by Joseph Fitzgerald, the chairman of Federal Field Committee for Development Planning in Alaska.  The two NPS officials, Director George Hartzog and Assistant Director Ted Swem, broached the idea of a national park for the Skagway area. Parks were also proposed for the Arrigetch Peaks area (Gates of the Arctic), Lake Clark Pass, the Wood-Tikchik Lakes area, all of which had been the subject of NPS reconnaissance studies. The governor's support was critical at this juncture because the NPS, at the time, lacked a broad national basis of support for Alaska parks. At that meeting, Hickel expressed a definite interest in the Skagway park proposal. He agreed to speak to local officials about the project, and he assigned Dr. Carl McMurray (one of his staff assistants) as a contact person. The governor, however, gave no such support for the other three projects, perhaps because they involved relatively large amounts of acreage. 
The Skagway Alternatives Study, which was proposed after that meeting, was intended to examine alternative ways of ensuring the preservation of the historic scene; it was to do so by "exploring ways and means of achieving this through the cooperative efforts of private owners, and various levels of government." The study was to be organized by Merrill J. Mattes of the agency's San Francisco Service Center. He was to be assisted by Reed Jarvis, a regional-office historian; Robert E. Howe, Superintendent of Glacier Bay and Sitka national monuments; and Bailey O. Breedlove, the landscape architect who anchored the Alaska Field Office in Anchorage. Howe was asked to serve as "keyman" or local contact person. 
The study finally began in March 1968. The NPS, well aware that any proposed park would be a multi-agency affair, asked the governor's office to seek the advice of Skagway officials. State Park representatives, as well as a state legislator, were also invited to assist in study preparation. NPS officials also contacted their counterparts in Canada. Peter Bennett, who served as the Assistant Director in charge of historic sites in the National and Historic Parks Branch of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, immediately showed a keen interest in the project. 
Field work for the study was conducted in late April and early May. Study organizer Merrill Mattes, along with Howe, Breedlove, and Jarvis, spent a week in and around Skagway; as part of the trip, they spoke to civic and railroad officials and flew over the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. The team then took the train to Whitehorse, where they and DNR official Mike Leach met with James Smith, the Commissioner of Yukon Territory. 
Mattes spent much of the summer traveling, but by September he was in the midst of efforts to complete a preliminary study on NPS management alternatives in the Skagway area. He entrusted historian Reed Jarvis with writing the report; Jarvis, however, was sidetracked for months with other duties.  It might well have been delayed even more, but NPS staff became so concerned about the fate of the White Pass railroad depot (see section below) that they rushed the study through to completion. An advance copy of the alternatives study was sent off for Washington review on March 19, 1969. 
The Skagway Alternatives Study, designated as a "report to explore alternatives for Federal participation in a program to save historic Skagway, Alaska, from extinction," offered three visions of National Park Service involvement in the area. Alternative One retained the status quo, and called for no direct NPS involvement in the area.
Alternative Two called for the designation of Skagway as a National Historic Site. The NPS would establish a superintendent in Skagway; it would acquire, however, "only those structures needed for an orientation, information, and interpretation complex." Planners recommended the acquisition of the three-building Mascot Block, the "Salvation Army Building" (now called the Boas Tailor and Furrier Building), the two-building White Pass and Yukon Railway passenger station, and the old Customs House adjacent to the station.  Both the Chilkoot and White passes would be managed by the state. The proposed NHS would encompass a total of 2.4 acres.
Alternative Three, which called for the largest degree of NPS involvement, gave the agency management control over the 17-mile Chilkoot Trail and the 12-mile White Pass Trail. This plan, though more comprehensive than the others, called for little more involvement in Skagway than Alternative Two had outlined; regarding the two trails, it envisioned NPS management over just a 208-foot wide corridor. It also called for the preservation of 160 acres in Dyea, which included the two Dyea cemeteries, and 40 acres in the White Pass City area. The three-unit proposal, which planners termed "admittedly unusual," encompassed just 977 acres. It called for three permanent and two seasonal staff. The Skagway and White Pass Trail areas were tentatively called "Skagway National Historical Park;" the Chilkoot Trail corridor would become a segment of the "Klondike Gold Rush International Trail," which would stretch from Dyea to Dawson. 
The plan was significant for several pioneering concepts. Included, for example, was the first compilation of data on the historical buildings in the downtown area. Most of the historic business district was included; off-Broadway buildings included the Alaska Cable Office (at First and Main), City Hall, the Pullen House, and Captain Moore's Log Cabin. The report proposed the first historical district--an essentially rectangular area which included all lots within 100 feet of Broadway--and proposed an ordinance and advisory board to regulate the appearance of the structures contained within it. The NPS was quick to point out that it was not the first agency to delineate a historic district in Skagway (the Alaska State Housing Authority had described a "Historical Commercial" area five years earlier when it prepared a comprehensive plan for the city), but it was the first to suggest a protective status for the gold rush-era buildings. 
The report also proposed several ideas that would later prove controversial. For instance, Alternative Three proposed the elimination of parking along Broadway and the laying of railroad tracks down the center of the street. Planners also called for the two trainsets--Engine 52 and an 80-series engine, each with period cars--to become static displays along Broadway. 
The NPS planning team recommended that Alternative Three be adopted. The principal difficulty of the first alternative, they noted, was that "barring a miracle in the form of a private Rockefeller-type philanthropist, it cannot succeed. The resources of Skagway and Alaska alone can only lead to a pessimistic conclusion about the fate of historic Skagway." The agency was more hopeful about the second alternative, primarily because it called for a historic zoning ordinance, the creation of a Historic Advisory Board, and the establishment of tax benefits for landowners who were willing to participate in an historic preservation program. But the final alternative was considered
Others in the agency concurred with the recommendations of the report writers. Northwest District Director John Rutter gave an informal "unqualified endorsement" of Alternative Three on March 25. The Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation agreed as well. The agency's Washington planning office noted that
William Bowen, the Director of the Western Regional Office, also preferred the third alternative. He was skeptical, however, that the NPS could do much to preserve Skagway's historical resources. Citing the report's contention that the preservation of Skagway through zoning and voluntary action could not succeed barring a Rockefeller-style "miracle," Bowen noted that
Bowen also expressed concern about the report's emphasis on a cooperative planning effort. Noting the agency's failures on the subject at Nez Perce National Historical Park, he cautioned, "Remember that enforcing a zoning ordinance depends upon the so-called 'police power' of the community and that enforcement can be very lax if an unsympathetic city administration should come into power at a future date."  Bowen's concerns were valid in any situation where the agency had less than total control; as noted in later chapters, they have resulted in frustrations experienced by each of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park's superintendents.
By May 1969, the NPS had publicly announced its decision to back Alternative Three. In a brief released that month, which in retrospect appears both biased and hyperbolic, the agency
Given the completion and approval of the Alternatives Study, NPS officials looked forward to coordinating their efforts with Canadian officials and to the eventual preparation of a master plan for the proposed park areas. 
A major issue which confronted Merrill Mattes and the other NPS park planners was the fate of Skagway's turn-of-the-century White Pass and Yukon Route railroad depot. Soon after the planning team began its investigation of the area's historical resources, it met with WP&YR officials. Roy Minter, assistant to the WP&YR president and a Vancouver resident, happened to be in Skagway. He informed the team that a few months earlier, the company had decided to erect a new depot. Once it was completed, the company planned to demolish the existing depot. Mattes, clearly alarmed at the prospect of the town losing one of its most significant buildings, quickly alerted his superiors in San Francisco. 
Minter did his best to articulate the railroad's position on the subject. He noted that "during the last five years the old depot has been the subject of many discussions within our Company." He was well aware that the depot was "full of history and nostalgia." The building, however, was quickly falling victim to the elements; it had crooked beams, a heaved floor, a poor heating system, and a virtually nonexistent foundation. A new depot was clearly needed. The land where the old depot stood, moreover, was needed as a parking and service area for the railroad's increasing auto-carriage traffic. NPS officials were told that the depot would not be torn down for another year; the decision to raze it, however, had already been made. 
NPS officials did what they could to publicize the impending demolition. They realized, however, that they were still in the early stages of studying the Skagway area; a park, should it be authorized, was many years in the future. The best they could do, therefore, was to pass their concern on to the two state officials that managed tourism and historical sites, respectively. They hoped that the two state officials would request Governor Hickel to personally intervene in the affair and halt demolition long enough to allow the planning effort to reach its logical conclusion. 
The NPS's pleas for help began to have some effect. Martin Schafer, the Director of the state's Department of Economic Development, was fully cognizant of the value of the depot in Skagway as a tourist destination. He expressed surprise at the recent turn of events and wrote Minter about it. Secretary of State Keith Miller called him as well. Minter was cordial and cooperative to both, and even offered the building, without charge, "to anyone who has the financial means to move the depot to a new location and preserve it as a historical building." If no such arrangement could be made, the depot was to be demolished. The company scheduled a demolition date of late May 1969. Meanwhile, in late November 1968, construction work began on the new depot. 
Word of the depot's impending demise spread throughout the NPS's Washington, D.C. and San Francisco offices. Most officials could do little but wring their hands over the matter; Mattes, however, vowed to fight the matter as best he could. He soon learned that Governor Hickel was reluctant to intercede prior to the completion of the alternatives study.  Mattes also knew that because Skagway was a company town to a large extent, few there were in a position to influence the railroad's actions. Mattes could only hope that "someone with 'official clout' might yet convince the WP&Y RR people that they should at least defer demolition long enough to enable the NPS, the State, and the city of Skagway to explore the possibilities of salvation." He also knew that the depot was located within the Skagway and White Pass National Historic Landmark, and that the demolition of the depot, although legally permissible, would jeopardize the quality of that NHL. Therefore, he hoped that Ernest Allen Connally, chief of the NPS's Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, would write to Frank H. Brown, WP&YR's president. A letter from Connally, forcefully reminding Brown of the depot's historical importance, might cause Brown to appeal to his "better instincts" and preserve the building. Better yet, he hoped that either NPS Director George Hartzog or Interior Secretary Hickel might be able to convince President Brown to delay the impending demolition. 
On April 7, Hartzog wrote Brown and asked him to reconsider the WP&YR's decision, noting that in the professional judgement of NPS planners "the Yukon and White Pass station is the most significant surviving structure in Alaska illustrating and commemorating the Klondike gold rush period." He asked for a meeting between NPS and WP&YR officials "to discuss ways of preserving this important historic structure."  Meanwhile, Howard Pollock, Alaska's Congressional representative, was notified of the situation.
Hartzog's original letter to Brown somehow got lost in the mail, but Rep. Pollock's office intervened and provided him a copy. Roy Minter of the WP&YR, who replied to Hartzog, painstakingly explained the situation. The railroad, he noted, had no malicious intent in the matter and had even publicized the depot situation in area newspapers. He restated, however, that little could be done to save the depot. He wrote that
He reiterated that it would be a highly expensive proposition to move the building (something that even Mattes had admitted was "a rather sorry idea"), and remained firm that the building had to go. He delayed the scheduled demolition date, however, until the end of July, and as per Hartzog's suggestion, agreed to meet with NPS officials. 
Recognizing the immediacy of the situation, the NPS dispatched two architects, Richard C. Mehring and A. Lewis Koue, to Skagway to determine the feasibility of moving the depot and the adjacent customs building. Mehring noted that "all buildings are structurally sound" and that each, theoretically, could be moved. Each building, however, presented special problems, of which the vault in the depot's administration building was perhaps the most egregious. In Koue's opinion, "Disuse and neglect of some areas has resulted in obsolescence and disrepair of some elements, resulting in a dilapidated appearance; but the authenticity and integrity of the buildings are very well preserved." The architects made a historical analysis and completed measured drawings of the depot. 
Koue noted that if the depot and customs buildings could not be preserved in situ, they should be moved over to the north side of Second Avenue, in the vacant lots behind the various Broadway businesses. But Robert Luntey, a San Francisco-based NPS planner, offered an alternative plan. He recommended that the NPS purchase the vacant land between Second and Third avenues for use as a WP&YR parking lot. Such an action would necessitate the removal of the customs building--perhaps to the west side of Broadway--but would keep the depot intact. If the WP&YR were unwilling to do so, consideration would then be given to moving both the depot and customs building to the south side of the railroad tracks and west of Broadway. 
The NPS was also quick to arrange a meeting with WP&YR executives. That meeting took place in Vancouver on June 23-24 and was attended by Merrill Mattes, John Rutter, Roy Minter, and other railroad officials. The discussion was long and cordial, but the railroad was unyielding in its position that both the depot and the U.S. Customs office had to be either demolished or moved. The NPS, however, gained several concessions. First, at Mattes's insistence, it saved the customs building, at least for the time being. (Company employees were about to proceed with demolition when Minter sent a telegram ordering them not to do so.) Second, WP&YR officials agreed to delay depot demolition until July 1970, but only if a workable way could be found to remove the building by that date. (The new depot, which began to be constructed in November 1968, would be completed a year later, thus exacerbating the need for adjacent space.) Finally, White Pass officials agreed to a less tangible though critical concession. They were fully aware that they had been suffering poor public relations because of their intransigence on the depot issue. Therefore, NPS officials perceived that railroad officials would fully cooperate if a depot relocation effort were attempted. 
Given a new window of opportunity, NPS officials did what they could to save the various buildings. On September 12, Merrill Mattes and Bailey Breedlove visited Skagway to consider alternatives for their preservation. While there, they were glad to learn that the WP&YR was planning to move the customs building across Second Avenue and sell it to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen.  But no other opportunities came forth.
Lacking other possibilities, the NPS looked into the possibility that a new organization, the National Park Foundation, might be able to help preserve the old depot. The NPF had been established by Congress on December 18, 1967; it had held its first meeting on July 31, 1968. The tax-exempt, non-profit, charitable Foundation was created, in part,
The regional offices knew little about the NPF before October 1968, and not until June 1969 was it considered as a possible solution to the dilemma over the depot. At that time, it was one of several organizations to be contacted "to determine if any party or parties exist who can provide needed funds and continuing responsibility for the structures pending consideration of a park proposal by Congress."  But none of those other possibilities were successful, and by October 1969, Mattes recognized that "the only hope for these buildings is to secure the interest of the National Park Foundation in spending the necessary funds," estimated to be $75,000 to $100,000. Funding the building relocation would require a "definite show of interest" by Director Hartzog. 
In order to convince both Director Hartzog and the National Park Foundation of the project's worthiness, NPS Western Region officials hurriedly produced a report entitled Project Prospectus, Preservation of Historic Railroad Structures. The report noted that the Service still hoped, if at all possible, to preserve the depot in situ. The Service had no illusions about the intransigence of WP&YR officials, but still felt that
If the WP&YR proved adamant that the buildings had to be moved, the NPS would adopt Lewis Koue's suggestion that they be relocated to the vacant lots on the north side of Second Avenue. If that possibility proved unworkable, then the buildings could be moved to city land at the southeast corner of Third Avenue and Spring Street. The two alternative plans each entailed $45,000 in relocation costs; the cost of either plan totalled $80,000. 
The completed report was passed along to the Director in early November. Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel, the former Alaska Governor, also backed the plan. The proposal thus had strong support when it was presented to the National Park Foundation board at their December 4 meeting; based on that support, the Foundation board approved the NPS proposal.  The Foundation then proceeded to negotiate directly with White Pass. On March 6, 1970, several NPF officials met with railroad officials Roy Minter and John S. Butterfield. The NPF expressed its desire to acquire the depot, and asked once again that the company refrain from any actions that would result in its demolition. Moving the building was not discussed; instead, the NPF encouraged the railroad to take advantage of the tax benefits to be gained from donating the structure to the Foundation. 
By early 1971, White Pass finally told the NPS that it would be willing to consider leaving the depot complex in situ and transfer it to the National Park Service. Soon afterward, the company agreed to donate the complex to the National Park Foundation, recognizing that by doing so they could obtain tax credits from the donation. On May 19, the NPF at long last acquired the land and buildings via a quit claim deed, and soon afterward, it assumed maintenance of the property. 
More than a year later, on May 27, 1972, the White Pass and Yukon Route officially donated the depot to the National Park Foundation at a ceremony in Skagway. White Pass was represented by Marvin P. Taylor, the company's vice president in charge of operations, while Assistant Secretary of the Interior Richard S. Bodman represented the National Park Foundation. (The Secretary of the Interior is the ex officio chairman of the NPF board.) Both men made brief remarks. Additional speakers that day included Roy Minter, the special assistant to White Pass president Albert P. Friesen, and John Bryant, an assistant secretary of the NPF. 
Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000