• Nine men pose with gear at the Alaska-British Columbia border in the snow

    Klondike Gold Rush

    National Historical Park Alaska

Smith and Wesson pistol found in historic YMCA

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Date: October 1, 2010
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?

Taiya River with snaking through the forest with a mountain backdrop

The Chilkoot Trail in Klondike Gold Rush NHP takes the hiker from sea level to alpine tundra in just 16 miles. As you hike you will ascend from northern coastal forest to boreal forest to alpine tundra. Watch for seals, then bears, then the pika, a member of the rabbit family.