Klondike Gold Rush NHP: Jeff Smith’s Parlor

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Klondike Gold Rush

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park commemorates the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. From 1896 to 1899, 100,000 ‘stampeders’ set out to find their fortunes in the Yukon Territory. Of those who attempted the arduous journey, only 30,000 made it to the Klondike. Around 4000 actually struck gold.

Stepping into downtown Skagway is like stepping into the late 1800s. The National Park Service manages and preserves twenty historical structures here. The park seeks to tell the story of the boomtown days when hopeful prospectors passed through in search of a better life.

Skagway went from a tent city to a frontier town almost overnight. Stampeders sailed up the Inside Passage to Skagway. From Skagway, they trekked the White Pass Trail to the Yukon River. Once on the river, they had another 500 miles to go until they made it to the Klondike gold fields.

Authorities required prospectors to have a year’s worth of supplies in order to hike the White Pass. Transients arrived in Skagway without provisions and struggled to find work and and acquire the necessary supplies. Most of those who made the journey eventually returned home broke.

We stopped in Skagway on our Alaskan cruise. Once off the ship, we made beeline for the visitor center. We watched the movie and attended a ranger talk on the Buffalo Soldier outpost in Skagway. Then we toured Jeff Smith’s Parlor, walked through the Moore Homestead and finally rode the White Pass Railway up to the Yukon.

Jeff Smith’s Parlor

The ranger who directed us over to Jeff Smith’s Parlor said it is perhaps the weirdest property owned by the National Park Service. The parlor houses an eclectic collection of antique gambling machines and gold-rush-era artifacts.

Jeff “Soapy” Smith ran a gang of con men from the building in 1898. They preyed upon the Stampeders for a few months until Smith was killed in a gunfight.

A former Stampeder, Martin Itjen, bought the place in 1935 and turned it into a museum. It changed hands a couple of times before becoming a part of the National Park Service.

Skagway posts

Location: Skagway, Alaska
Designation: National Historical Park
Date designated/established: June 30, 1976
Date of my visit: June 2, 2022

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