Watson Lake's WWII-era airport terminal named Yukon historic site

The Watson Lake Air Terminal Building built during the Second World War, is Yukon's newest designated historic site.

Watson Lake Air Terminal Building was built in 1942 and is still in use

The Watson Lake airport terminal in 1951. It's now a designated Yukon historic site. (Library and Archives Canada)

When it comes to Yukon's celebrated history, Watson Lake can sometimes feel a little left out.

"We don't have the gold rush," said Susan Drury of the Watson Lake Historical Society. 

"But we have the aviation history."

It's that aviation history that's just been recognized by the Yukon government's heritage division. Watson Lake's 77-year-old air terminal building is Yukon's newest designated historic site.

Watson Lake Air Terminal Building was built in 1942, and it's the only air terminal building from the Northwest Staging Route that's still in use in Yukon. The Northwest Staging Route was used during the Second World War to send military assistance to Russia, through northern Canada and Alaska.

American fighter planes at the airport in 1948, en route to Alaska. (Donna Davis/Town of Watson Lake)

Drury says it took about a year to apply and have the designation approved. 

"It's nice to finally have it done ... For the community, it's a recognition that we do have history here."

Drury says Watson Lake gets a lots of visitors who have some family memory of the community, often connected to the highway or airport — two legacies of the war.

"The guest book is just filled with comments of people from all over the world, and those who say their grandfather worked on the highway or their grandfather flew through here," she says.

"And so it's already recognized elsewhere as a historical site, a place to go and see."

A formal ceremony to mark the new designation will happen sometime in the new year.

The airport terminal is now Watson Lake's second designated historic site, after the unusual signpost forest.

The terminal building is still in use today. Here, local residents welcome a scheduled flight from Whitehorse, in 2016. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Written by Paul Tukker, with files from Dave Croft


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