Broadway Street: Skagway, Alaska


The Coast Mountains stand just a thousand feet from Broadway Street and nearly all of the storefronts and other buildings erected during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. Efforts to protect the city's historic buildings, gold rush artifacts, and related resources first involved individual residents such as Harriet Pullen, who arrived in Skagway in 1897 and went on to amass a well-known museum collection. Today many of Broadway's historic buildings — originally hotels, saloons, and stores — are used as museums, jewelry stores, gift shops, and art galleries.

Designated Area

Seven blocks starting at 1st Avenue and continuing until 8th Avenue.

The Coast Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to Broadway Street. In the foreground is the Arctic Brotherhood Hall. With more than 8,800 driftwood sticks nailed to its exterior front, the hall is possibly the most photographed building in Alaska. Photo courtesy of Skagway Museum, Dedman Collection.

Planning Excellence

The dramatic, steep-sided Coast Mountains and fjord-like Lynn Canal of Alaska's Inside Passage form the visually arresting backdrop of Broadway Street. The first governmental planning and historic protection efforts occured in 1964 when Broadway Street was recognized as part of the Skagway Historic District and White Pass National Historic Landmark. Broadway is home to the heaviest concentration of 1897-98 historic buildings still standing.

The street's historic character, interesting details, unique stores and pedestrian orientation make it a popular place to explore, especially during the summer when scores of cruise ships make the town a port of call.

The Golden North Hotel has been a staple of Skagway's skyline since 1898. Its eye-catching gold dome and modest scale complement the other buildings along Broadway. Photo courtesy of Skagway Museum, Dedman Collection.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Historical Character

  • The homestead of steamship captain William Moore at the mouth of the Skagway River turned into a tent town in July 1897 when the first gold stampeders arrived en route to the Klondike River gold fields in Canada.
  • Within a year Skagway's population was between 8,000 and 10,000; grid pattern of streets laid out and surveyed, including Broadway Street, by Frank Reid after he won surveying equipment in a poker game
  • Klondike Gold rush was short lived, lasting only a couple of years; during the following one and one-half decades many side-street buildings are torn down or moved to Broadway to be closer to the White Pass and Yukon Railroad station at 2nd Avenue and Broadway; today Broadway resembles closely what existed in 1910

Planning and Historical Protection Efforts

  • Idea for Skagway gold rush national park first proposed in 1933 by Elmer A. Rasmuson, president of the National Bank of Alaska and Skagway resident; proposal later championed by Mayor Cyril A. Coyne (two terms, 1954-1956 and 1957-1959)
  • Historian Charles Snell inspects Skagway in 1961 for report to National Park Service studying Skagway as a national historic site; Snell states the surviving structures there "are the finest examples of the mining frontier town, 1897-1910, in Alaska."
  • Heaviest concentration of historic buildings Snell found still standing in Skagway were on Broadway between 1st and 6th Avenues
  • City adopts Skagway Historic Zoning Ordinance in 1972 protecting downtown historic area; first historic commission formed in 1973; commission charged with reviewing all building plans or changes within historic district
  • Skagway's Historic District on Broadway Street included within boundaries of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park finally authorized by Congress in 1976
  • Other than historic Golden North Hotel, all buildings on Broadway have zero setbacks and similar scale of two to three stories
  • 1999 Comprehensive Plan involved residents, downtown business owners, tour operators and National Park Service; addresses traffic and parking issues in historic district by establishing Skagway Municipal and Regional Transit bus program
  • 2020 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in February 2009, addresses pedestrian issues on Broadway Street and initiates The Gateway Project, which will enhance pedestrian safety and access to and from Alaska state ferry terminal; plan calls for improved sidewalks along the east side of Broadway Street to downtown; plan also addresses concerns that new waterfront development respects Skagway's historic character

Center of Commerce, Activities, Attractions

  • Many of Broadway's historic buildings now used as museums, jewelry stores, art galleries and general merchandise stores
  • Historic Eagles Hall theater (6th Avenue and Broadway) puts on nightly performances during summer season about Skagway's famous con artist and swindler, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II who died July 8, 1898 during a gunfight near Juneau Company wharf in Skagway
  • Skagway's Centential Park (1st Avenue and Broadway) has a statue a person during the Gold Rush, monuments, orientation signs, native plants, benches
  • Arctic Brotherhood Hall (2nd Avenue and Broadway) possibly the most photographed building in Alaska; more than 8,800 driftwood sticks nailed to exterior front
  • National Park Service Visitor Center located at former White Pass and Yukon Railroad Depot (2nd Avenue and Broadway); gold rush exhibits and railroad photos

Herman Kirmse bought this 1899 structure in 1904 and opened the Kirmse Jewelry Store. The building is still a jewelry store today. Photo courtesy of John Harris.