The Caribou Hotel was designated for its architectural, historical and social history values.
The Caribou Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in the Southern Lakes Region and is one of the last two historic three-storey frame commercial buildings in Yukon dating from the early 20th century. This landmark structure stands in its original location and is one of the first properties recognized when entering Carcross. Its size, massing and historic character provide an anchor to Dawson Charlie Street, one of the last Yukon streets composed entirely of historic buildings relatively unchanged since 1910. The Caribou Hotel has housed one of Yukon's longest continuously operating food and lodging businesses.
The size of the structure and its simple design provide an excellent representation of larger hotels of its period in Yukon. Its construction materials and building techniques such as double-loaded hall corridors, interior trims and doors and exterior architectural features such as the drop siding, trims and door and window configuration are typical design elements from this period of Yukon history.
The history of the Caribou Hotel reflects the economic and social history of Carcross and the Southern Lakes Region. Soon after the Klondike Gold Rush and a minor regional mining boom, many buildings were re-located from the declining communities of Conrad and Bennett to Carcross. The original building at this location was moved from Bennett and re-named the Anderson Hotel. In 1903, this hotel was sold to Dawson Charlie, one of the discoverers of Klondike gold and a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. Charlie had the hotel extensively remodelled and re-named it the Caribou Hotel. Following Dawson Charlie's death in 1908, Edwin and Bessie Gideon rented and operated the hotel from his heir, Annie (Charlie) Auston. The hotel burned to the ground on Christmas Eve, 1909, along with an adjacent store and the nearby White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) railway depot. A new hotel was constructed at the same location in 1910 and the business continued. The WP&YR railway depot was also rebuilt. The hotel was an important community meeting place and a venue for special occasions and public celebrations such as New Years Eve parties.
The sternwheeler, S.S. Tutshi, was constructed in 1917 to service growing tourism in the Southern Lakes Region. The Caribou Hotel benefited from its central location and proximity to the railway depot and S.S. Tutshi docking facilities. Over time the hotel has provided accommodation and services for tourists, big game hunters, visiting dignitaries, and long term lodgings for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, construction workers, and local residents. Johnnie Johns, a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and world renowned and respected big game outfitter, had a long working relationship with the hotel. Many of his clients stayed here.
The Caribou Hotel also figured in the construction of the Alaska Highway when the United States Army and private road construction crews used the hotel for housing and a mess hall. With as many as twenty-five trains per day rolling through town, Carcross was a major operational centre for workers, equipment and materials.
The Caribou Hotel remains as a window onto the social, economic and cultural history of the community of Carcross and the Southern Lakes Region of Yukon. Its neighbour, the WP&YR railway depot is designated a National Historic Railway Station of Canada.
Source: Historic Sites Unit, Cultural Services Branch, Yukon Government file 3630 32 09