Renovation of historic YMCA, Meyer Building proceeds

By DAN FOX
EDITOR

If the scaffolding, constant construction and fresh coats of pink paint work weren’t clues enough, two buildings at State Street and Fifth Avenue are undergoing renovations by the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

The YMCA Gymnasium and the Meyer Building are currently in the process of being restored, work that is expected to take several more years.

The YMCA Gymnasium, which is the southernmost of the two buildings, will be brought back to its original state of existence. However, while the Meyer Building is slated act as a museum, at present the National Parks Service is not set on a use for the gymnasium as of yet.

The YMCA came to Skagway alongside Klondike Stampeders, according to an NPS historic structure report, recruiting nearly 1,000 members in a 1900 membership drive.

Early in the same year, the YMCA had succeeded in raising money to commission a gymnasium.

Construction on the gym began in April 1900, and completed in July 1900.

As the gold rush faded, however, the YMCA closed its doors in November 1901, with a mere 55 members on its books.

The building was moved to its current location by 1905, and was used as a meat storage facility. It was purchased in 1922 by George Rapuzzi, who used it as a garage and for storage.

Constructed in 1899 for use as a meat market, at one time the Meyer Building also housed a shoe store and a telephone company. According to the NPS report, it also served as a garage and storage facility for a time.

The NPS is now refurbishing and repairing it to state of period significance, with the intent to recreate the meat market portion of the business as a historic display – meat hooks and all.

It will also house a book collection, with the current plan being to store the tomes between the meat hooks.

The exterior of the building is receiving a coat of pink paint with green trim – a color choice that NPS employee Philip Clark said matches the original paint samples of the building.

The right interior side of the building will also pick back up a historic use: the NPS plans to store the rehabbed Martin Itjen Skaguay Street Car there.

Corey Dusin, acting chief of maintenance for the Klondike Gold Rush Park, said the iconic streetcar has been worked on through the month of October.

Daniel Papke, a preservationist working on the projects, said workers are preserving the historic fabric and materials of the building as much as possible. Inside the structures, darker, aged wood from the original construction can be seen alongside newer boards and wooden supports.

“If you walk around and look at the buildings [in the downtown historic district] they all kind of look like they are brand-new buildings, and this is going to look like it’s an old, newly-painted building,” Clark said.

Currently, Papke and Clark said they are doing prep-work for the fire suppression system installation. Completion for the tandem projects is still about three years out, Dusin said.