the burning of the historic melbourne hotel in dawson city

This hotel was built in the early days of the Klondike Gold Rush. I believe it was being restored at the time of the fire. It certainly was a tragedy.

This hotel was built in the early days of the Klondike Gold Rush. I believe it was being restored at the time of the fire. It certainly was a tragedy.

When I first entered the hotel, the lobby sported a sort of couch-chair composed of real Texas longhorns. In 1961, a young handsome Fred Berger was running the hotel, which at that time was called the Bonanza.

I approached Fred in the bar about buying a snowshoe drawing (which was the first of hundreds we later made). Harry and Annie Silverfox, who originally came from Big Salmon, had put moosehide inside a real snowshoe frame and I made a pastel and charcoal drawing on the hide. We were the first ones to do this.

Anyway, Fred bought the snowshoe, and thank God he did, because I was broke. The late Fred Berger was a good man and a straight shooter.

I believe the bar in the hotel was the original saloon-style bar from the early Melbourne Hotel days, still intact. It was an absolutely wonderful glimpse into the past, visiting it.

Alan Fry of Whitehorse recently gave me a photograph of that old saloon interior. Thanks to him and also to Fred for his helping hand years ago.

Also, I want to thank Wolf and Sharyn Riedl of Haines Junction for sending me their interesting letter and great photo of the burning Melbourne Hotel.

Their letter follows:

Jim Robb had a column (August 25) on the Melbourne Hotel (aka Principal Hotel, Pearl Harbour Hotel and finally the Bonanza Hotel) and asked for a correction of his estimate of 1973 as the year it burned down. I lived in Dawson from 1975 through 1977 and watched it burn in the early spring of 1976 (April or May). It burned so intensely throughout the night that the volunteer firemen spent most of their efforts hosing down the Palace Grande next door, which had its west wall severely scorched by the nearby flames. By dawn, the old hotel had collapsed into a pile of ashes, but the Palace was saved. I’ve attached a photo I took that night … feel free to use it.

Wolf Riedl

Haines Junction

Anyone with information about this subject, please write Jim Robb: The Colourful Five Per Cent Scrapbook – Can You Identify? c/o the Yukon News, 211 Wood Street, Whitehorse, Yukon,

Y1A 2E4, or e-mail through the News website, www.yukon-news.com.