North

Bar in 'haunted' historic Yukon hotel set to reopen

The Caribou Hotel in Carcross, Yukon, has a haunted history that dates back to the Klondike Gold Rush. Its owners have been working for years to restore the bar and hotel.

The Caribou Hotel's history dates back to the Klondike Gold Rush

The Caribou Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in the Yukon and home to one of the territory's oldest saloons. It's been closed since 2005 but the bar is set to re-open later this month. (George Maratos/CBC)

Aside from the ghosts, Yukon's oldest hotel has been empty for 15 years — but that's about to change.

The Caribou Hotel in Carcross, well-known for apparent paranormal activity, is also home to one of the oldest saloons, dating back to the Klondike Gold Rush. Owners Anne Morgan and Jamie Toole are optimistic they'll be pouring pints later this month.

Restoring a historic Yukon building and preserving history has long been a dream of Morgan's.

"I have learned so much more about Yukon history and Carcross's place in history through this project," said Morgan. "It's an important story that we need to pass on to future generations."

Jamie Toole and Anne Morgan have spent the last 13 years restoring the Caribou Hotel. It's long been a dream of Morgan's to restore a historic Yukon building. (George Maratos/CBC)

Morgan and Toole bought the hotel in 2006. They acquired it from the estate of Bob Olson, who was killed at the hotel in December 2004.

Since taking ownership, Toole has put more than four decades of building experience to the test and taken on the exhaustive renovation himself. 

"I just do what I'm told," jokes Toole, referencing his partner's long desire to beautify a historic Yukon building.

It's an important story that we need to pass on to future generations.​​​- Anne Morgan, owner

This project has taken longer than expected and cost a lot more, but it has become a labour of love.

Years of work have gone into the project. Historic doors were refurbished, handrails meticulously restored. Toole even lifted the building and poured a new foundation, and completely rewired the electrical.

"It's a lot of labour, probably could have built three of these buildings with the time and the cost we've put into it so far," said Toole. "If you don't do a historical restoration this way, to me it's not done properly, just the windows alone in the entire building took 800 hours to refinish."

Caribou light fixtures and a tin ceiling are part of the new decor at the Caribou Hotel bar. (George Maratos/CBC)

The new bar is chockfull of Yukon history. The tabletops were handcrafted by Toole using lumber off the White Pass Railroad. The countertops were constructed from the slate off the old bar's pool table. 

"I think probably my favourite is the tin ceiling, I think that's really spectacular," said Morgan.

The original safe and cash register, dating back to 1898, are also part of the decor. The beer tap stand came off an old keg that was on an old boat. 

"So it's historically really important and looks pretty neat," she said.

This cash register is part of the decor at the Caribou Hotel bar. It's one of many antiques that will adorn the bar when it re-opens. (George Maratos/CBC)

The historic hotel has a hundred years worth of stories. Dawson Charlie, one of the original discoverers of gold in the Klondike, was once an owner.

According to the hotel's website, Polly, a foul-mouthed parrot, also lived at the bar for decades.

And then there are the ghosts.

The hotel is famous for doors being slammed and floors creaking at all hours of the night. Former owner Bessie Gideon, perhaps the hotel's most famous ghost of them all, has been seen peering out windows and even running a bath.

Its spooky history was immortalized in 2015 on a Canada Post stamp

"I don't remember actually knowing that it was haunted when we bought it," said Morgan. "I'm looking forward myself to coming back and haunting it though."

The paranormal activity at the Caribou Hotel was immortalized on a Canada Post stamp. (George Maratos/CBC)

Over the years she's noticed unusual activity throughout the hotel. Even Toole, a staunch naysayer of the paranormal, recalls hearing loud bangs as he worked late into the night.

"Oh my goodness there is something about this space," said Morgan. "Particularly the hallway."

The hotel itself is still two years from opening, but Morgan and Toole hope the restaurant will be serving food next year, and the taps will flow again at the end of this month.

Given all the paranormal activity, a spirit or two will probably be served as well. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated Polly the parrot survived the sinking of the SS Princess Sophia. In fact, Polly was not aboard for that voyage.
    Jul 17, 2019 11:59 AM CT

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