Today there is a widespread and growing recognition of the value of America's cultural heritage, a recognition that our architectural and historic resources play an important role in shaping the cultural identity of our society. Communities in Alaska and across the country are increasingly aware of the importance of preserving and documenting historic buildings, sites, and monuments. One important function of the study of historic resources is to add perspective to the literary record of a community's historical significance. The colorful gold rush era which gave birth to Skagway and a host of other Alaska towns and cities lends itself to both scholarly research and the creation of popular myth. An examination of the physical record, the buildings and sites which were a part of Skagway's history, can provide the information necessary to ensure a broader understanding of the past.
The present study, however, offers more than a compilation of data on historic buildings and sites. The physical evidence, however significant on its own, exists within the context of an active modern community. Historic buildings, like all others, must be utilized and integrated into the larger designs of the community. The significance of the present study then, lies in the recognition of the importance of the historic data as an aid to future planning. Its goal is to facilitate the compatible development of all Skagway's resources.
The study is important in one final way, as a guide to historic preservation research and planning in other Alaskan communities. Just as the colorful images of Soapy Smith, Frank Reid, Skookum Jim, and the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad have come to suggest the excitement and hardship of the gold rush in the new frontier, Skagway, District of Alaska suggests a standard for the study of historic resources and to plan for their utilization must now be attentive to the standards and quality of the research. This study sets a fine example to be followed.
The Alaska Association for Historic Preservation appreciates the commitment necessary to produce a quality cultural resources study. Congratulations are due to Robert L. Spude, the National Park Service, and the Anthropology and Historic Preservation section of the Cooperative Park Studies Unit, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, for their dedication and professionalism. Special credit must also be given to the citizens of Skagway for their contributions to the city's continued vitality.
Alaska is indeed fortunate to possess such a rich variety of historic and cultural resources, and it is our hope that Skagway, District of Alaska will stimulate many similar efforts throughout the state.
Thomas G. Beck
Last Updated: 06-Aug-2009