MURAL UNCOVERED – Top, historic buildings are stitched together in panoramic imagery for a mural effect; and above, a closeup of Bea Lingle’s section of the Moe’s Frontier Bar painting showing the Frank Reid-Soapy Smith shooting. AC

Story and Photos by Andrew Cremata

Moe’s bar building gets T&A treatment, S. side demo approved

The future of what was once Moe’s Frontier Bar is starting to take shape. Skagway’s Historic District Commission granted a permit application to demolish the liquor store portion of the building located in between Fourth and Fifth Avenue on Broadway. A new building will be built in its place and attached to the historic Moe’s bar building to the north, which itself will be restored and remodeled.
Architect Alan Rogers acting as agent for T&A Rentals, purchasers of the property, presented a detailed permit application with information pertaining to the history of Moe’s at the HDCs Oct. 15, meeting. The application included photographs from the various stages of Moe’s history combined with colloquial testimony, and showed the existing liquor store structure had been built on the vacant lot and was not a historic structure moved from someplace else.
Photo evidence showed the Moe’s bar building had been in place since the Klondike Gold Rush. Originally it was the Waldorf Hotel, but by the spring of 1898 had been rebuilt into the Allen Brothers Hardware Store, which would become Moe’s Frontier Bar in 1942. In the meantime, many businesses operated out of the building including a barber shop and a packer’s store.
In those early days, Frank Keelar owned a building where the liquor store currently sits and some had suggested it was the same building. However, photo evidence showed it was an entirely different structure. By 1940, photos show the building was gone and an empty lot was all that remained.
Comments made by Carl Mulvihill, quoted in the application, indicated sometime in the 1940s it became illegal to sell package liquor from the bar and Malcolm Moe was required to add the liquor store to the building. Mulvihill said he did not know if the structure was a preexisting one which had been moved to the site, or if it were built in place.
Irene Henricksen commented in the report that she doubted it was moved, but rather had been built in place.
Commissioner Virginia Long said, “This is very nice application,” and others on the commission agreed. The permit to demolish the liquor store building was granted unanimously. Commissioner Blaine Mero said, “It won’t be sad to see it go.”
The permit application to remodel the bar building and construct a new building in place of the liquor store site was addressed next. The plans outline the creation of two separate spaces suitable for lease connected by a shared wall. Both spaces include a restroom and safe room, with the new, larger building offering more overall floor space. The bar building would be remodeled to its 1940 appearance.
“I think it is going to be a nice project,” said Long.
Commissioner Su Rappleye was not as enthusiastic about the new building. She said, “I have a problem with an addition to a building that is larger than the existing building. I see this as a new building.”
She said the HDC had never approved of such a thing in the past.
Rogers said the wall separating the two buildings was nothing more than a “symbol wall,” and the intent was going back to the structure’s historical origins when the Keelar building was next door.
Rappleye said, “They were not built together, they were separate,” and called it a “huge addition to an existing building.”
Commissioner Casey McBride asked Rogers if the removal of the new building would impact the existing historical building. Rogers said no damage would come to the structure even if the new building were demolished.
Long said she had no problem with the proposed plans. The permit application was approved 4-1 with Rappleye voting no.
Restoration of the bar building has already begun. After paneling was removed from the walls of Moe’s, a mural by Bea O’Daniel (now Lingle) completed in May 1951 was revealed. The painting stretches around the perimeter of the main bar room and includes a detailed panoramic scene of Skagway in 1900 and separate pieces showing gold seekers ascending the Chilkoot Trail’s Golden Staircase and a Canadian Mountie on horseback atop a mountain
The mural was covered up in the late 1960s or early 1970s. There are currently no plans to salvage it.