A born and bred Dawsonite who has worked in the past to restore some of the town’s historic sites is blaming Parks Canada for allowing a number of others to rot to the ground.
Contractor Greg Hakonson’s comments come on the heels of last week’s announcement that the federal government was investing $13.7 million to upgrade the infrastructure at several Parks Canada sites across the territory. The Joe Boyle House, Bear Creek Machine Shop, Dredge No. 4 and Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City are among the historic sites set to receive major improvements.
But Hakonson – who renovated the Odd Fellows Hall and turned the old liquor store into the Yukon School of Visual Arts – said he’s spent the last 25 years trying to find a way to work with Parks Canada to prevent other sites from crumbling.
“Talking to Parks Canada is like talking to a wall,” he said.
“They’ve had an offer from me that’s been sitting in their hands for three years now. Some Level II buildings have already perished and quite a number of them are close to perishing.”
Parks Canada uses a Level I designation for buildings that have “national historic significance” and Level II for ones that have “other heritage values.”
Other Level I sites in Dawson include the Commissioner’s Residence, post office, Ruby’s Place and Billy Bigg’s Blacksmith Shop.
Hakonson argues that Level II buildings in Dawson City – such as the Bonanza Hotel or the “kissing buildings” – have been ignored over the years, with any available funding going to upgrade Level I sites instead.
In 2011, Parks Canada released a report in which it stated that 57 per cent of Level I buildings and structures were in fair condition, as opposed to 35 per cent for Level IIs.
Hakonson said it’s important for him to try to save Level II structures because of their significance.
“I’m born and raised here, I knew the tail end of the gold rushers,” he said.
“I played in all of those buildings when they were still full of all the gold rush stuff. It’s kind of a sick feeling to think that the people that we’ve put our trust in to look after our heritage are going to record its demise.”
Hakonson said he’s written letters to Yukon MP Ryan Leef in May, June and July, asking to find out what the position is on Level II buildings in Dawson City, but he’s received no reply.
He said one solution would be for Parks Canada to enter into partnerships with the private sector so that Level II sites can be given the proper attention they deserve.
“We’re trying to get Yukoners aware that our history is rotting away here in Dawson – literally,” he said.
Based on a 2010 Parks Canada report detailing the state of Klondike national historic sites, the management of Level II sites was deemed “unsustainable.”
“The required number of staff to effectively manage Level II cultural resources owned by the PCA (Parks Canada Agency) is challenged by the sheer number and the resources required,” according to the report.
Contact Myles Dolphin at