The Moore Homestead was the very first home built in Skagway as the Gold Rush started to take hold.
Captain William Moore and his son J. Bernard (Ben) Moore settled in this valley to capitalize on a future gold rush. Their struggles to adapt to the changes brought by an overwhelming tide of people reflect the huge impact of the Klondike Gold Rush on the local scene.
The homestead once stood on 160 acres of undeveloped land. It now sits quietly at the edge of town behind some larger buildings as the city has ground around it. We visited the homestead during our short time in Skagway.
It is only when you get up close do you realize that it’s very small. This was the cabin, the first home. The family then built a larger home next door which is the focus of your visit. This is the cabin today…
That was to be expected, it was the first house in Skagway and needed to be cool in the summer and warm in the freezing winter. A small house is easier to cool and heat. The only light came from the two doors and one window in the property. There was only one room with shelving and storage on the walls, beds must have been laid out in the middle of the home.
You can take a virtual tour inside of the property courtesy of the NPS website.
Moore Homestead 2.0
In 1897, Ben and his wife Minnie built a new one-and-a-half story wood frame house directly in front of their original cabin. As the town and their fortunes grew, they expanded the property. The family wealth came from their early investments in the land, and the development of sawmills, selling wood to the prospectors, and from the wharf, charging for docking ships.
This larger building is now home to a small museum that documents the life of the Moore family living in Skagway.
The History Of The Homestead
Their life was certainly not easy. They had to battle with a growing population of [sometimes desperate] prospectors and battle against prejudice of an interracial marriage.
Ben’s wife Minnie was from the Tlingit tribe which but tried to raise her children in the Victorian tradition. Despite their wealth and status, the family were rarely invited to social gatherings and Minne’s family were equally distant.
Visiting the museum gave us a first-hand view of what it would have been like to live in these times. The house includes many of the original artifacts from the home and family plus more information about the cultural history of the area and the family. Sadly there was not to be a happy ending, with estrangement, divorce, and suicide in later years.
Despite the number of tourists in town with the cruise ships, there weren’t many visitors to the house. We weren’t allowed to look upstairs and the girls did have a ‘feeling’ about the place. We were glad not to be the NPS guide staying in the house on his own…
If you do visit Skagway, take a few minutes to visit the Moore Homestead. It is free and worth seeing.