Dawson City has always seen a wide variety of summer visitors, from well-heeled RV drivers to young hitchhikers travelling on a shoestring budget.
Now, those budget-minded travellers have a new option.
The Cat’s Pyjamas Traveller’s Hostel opened earlier this year spearheaded by Dawson resident Greg Dumka, who believed a hostel in the downtown core was something the town needed.
“I had the idea probably about 10 years ago,” said Dumka. “I thought the town really needed a hostel. I was just planning for the future and then this building became available and I jumped at the opportunity.
“There is definitely a need for budget rentals for travellers here. Something in town, something closer for visitors.”
Located on the intersection of Third Avenue and King Street, the Cat’s Pyjamas is surrounded on all sides by historic buildings: the Palace Grand Theatre, Madame Tremblay’s, Klondike Kate’s and the old post office.
The hostel building itself appears in records dating back to 1902, when it was operated by a local grocer. Since then, the building has gone through many different incarnations. In recent years it has hosted a variety of different stores, and was once operated by the Yukon Telephone Syndicate. The building is recognizable and widely photographed with a painting on the side that features a verse from Robert Service’s famous poem, “The Spell of the Yukon”.
Like most older structures in Dawson, the shifting permafrost has left its mark on the building and walking through is like a stroll downhill, a sensation common for most Yukoners, but one that will surely pique the interest of people visiting from afar.
“It’s definitely a challenge to work on, especially the doors,” said Dumka.
Currently leasing from Griffith’s Heating and Services, Dumka has his sights set on the future of the building, which requires a considerable amount of maintenance due to the uneven and often changing condition of the structure.
“This year is more of a trial run, but down the road I would like to buy the building and rebuild the back portion,” said Dumka. “The main structure is historic so it has to stay, but the back was built sometime in the ’50s or ’60s. I would like to winterize it and have a year-round hostel.”
The hostel features two common areas, a kitchen, a reception area, two bathrooms, paid laundry, and 16 bunk beds which go for $35 per night. There’s also a single private room for $80 per night. The main common room features a pool table, shuffle board, a big-screen television and chessboard with the secondary room featuring comfortable furniture and a coffee table.
“I would like to get more private rooms,” said Dumka. “That’s something a lot of people are asking for. If things go well I might plan for a couple of little cabins or wall tents outside.”
Security measures are always a concern for people travelling on a budget, and Dumka says he has not overlooked that. The hostel features a keypad entry, security cameras, and soon lockers will become available for guests.
The Cat’s Pyjamas is still working on establishing its online presence in order to get information to travellers around the world. In the future, Dumka plans to seek affiliation with Hostelling International, a network of hostels worldwide that works to ensure that everyone’s hostelling experience is safe and comfortable. Dumka said that affiliation will help make the Cat’s Pyjamas hostel in Dawson City more visible on an international level.
The Cat’s Pyjamas can be reached at (867) 993-5715 and can be found on Facebook at The Cat’s Pyjamas Traveller’s Hostel.
Holly Culp is a freelance writer living in Dawson City.