Smith and Wesson pistol found in historic YMCA
Contact: Cynthia Von Halle, 907-983=9206
Last week, Doug Breen, maintenance worker for Klondike Gold Rush NHP, was the first to notice a Smith and Wesson pistol lying on a ledge within the north wall of the historic YMCA. It was found next to a ball of string and a small metal pulley. The NPS work crew was taking down interior walls as they continue their restoration work on the YMCA and the adjoining Arctic Meat Company building on the corner of 5th Avenue and State Street in Skagway. The pistol was immediately given to the park's curatorial staff for analysis. The gun was manufactured in Springfield, Mass., during the years 1878 - 1892. It is a single action, 32 calibers, and rim-fire, with a bird's head grip and spur trigger. The description is the easy part; however the circumstances surrounding the pistol's location in a sealed wall remain a mystery. The YMCA is a wood frame gymnasium, constructed in 1900, and originally contained a gym, baths, handball court, photo darkroom and reading room. In 1902, butcher Herman Meyer bought the building and, after moving it to State Street, remodeled it by inserting meat lockers with sawdust insulation into the western side of the building. The Skagway YMCA is the first one established in Alaska and was the base of operations for creating other YMCA's throughout the state at that time. During stabilization work this summer, NPS staff uncovered portions of the original gymnasium floor with portions of the paint lines still intact, as well as a beaver felt hat pre-dating 1901 found below the floor.
Did You Know?
The White Pass Trail of Klondike Gold Rush NHP earned infamy as the "Dead Horse Trail." Over 3,000 horses died there as inexperienced gold seekers struggled to reach the Klondike. "The horses died like mosquitoes in the first frost, and from Skagway to Bennett they rotted in heaps." -Jack London