Left, what is believed to be the original Packard engine from the original Martin Itjen Skagway Street Car, right.
George & Edna Rapuzzi Collection, Klondike Gold Rush NHP
Original Itjen Street Car engine located in Rapuzzi Collection
Local Skagway car restorer Tobias Parsons recently identified the original motor to Martin Itjen's Street Car #1 while assisting National Park Service and Municipality of Skagway museum staff with the inventory of the George and Edna Rapuzzi Collection.
The Rapuzzi Collection contains a wide variety of vintage automotive parts, which sparked Parsons’ interest.
NPS Curator Samantha Richert asked Parsons to examine the Street Car, which is in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park museum collection, to see if he could identify any useful parts. His inspection of the Street Car’s 1908 Packard chassis led to his identification of a matching 1908 Packard engine in the Rapuzzi Collection inventory, which Parsons and the park’s museum team believe is the original Street Car engine.
“This is an exciting discovery and we’re happy that Tobias has been able to help Samantha in looking through the auto parts of the collection,” stated Superintendent Mike Tranel in a press release.
The Rapuzzi Collection, which includes an estimated 30,000 items and five historic buildings, contains many artifacts related to Martin Itjen, a stampeder who later led Skagway’s developing tourist trade. After Itjen’s death in 1942, many of his belongings passed to his long-time friend, George Rapuzzi, who was a tourism promoter and guide as well as a consummate collector in his own right.
The Rasmuson Foundation purchased the collection in 2007 and donated it to the Municipality of Skagway with the understanding that it would be processed jointly with Klondike Gold Rush NHP. Staff from both museums have been inventorying the collection for five years, and just tallied the 11,000th item, the release said.
Skagway Museum director Judy Munns and the park’s curator jointly review the inventory for items that would be appropriate for their collections, and approximately 6,000 items have been included in either the municipality’s or the park’s museum collections. Inventory and research will continue on the collection this winter.
The buildings donated as part of the Rapuzzi Collection have also undergone significant restoration work since the Rasmuson Foundation’s donation. The National Park Service has poured foundations and erected new roofs for the YMCA, Meyer’s Meat Market, and Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum.
The municipality has installed underground power and made safety improvements to the Commissary and has made minor stabilization repairs on the Rapuzzi/Dahl house.
When restoration is completed, some buildings will include museum space for the Rapuzzi Collection to be prominently displayed. Jeff. Smith’s Parlor will showcase many artifacts from both the Itjen and Rapuzzi eras as they contribute to the “Soapy” story of Skagway’s gold rush history, the release states.
Artifacts will continue to be featured in exhibits such as the upcoming Yuletide seasonal window display at the park headquarters, located in the historic White Pass and Yukon Route Railway Depot on 2nd Avenue.
“I’m currently recruiting volunteers with expertise on trains,” Richert said.
If you would like to help to assist with identifying train-related parts and equipment in the Rapuzzi Collection, please contact her at 907-983-9222.
The park has a new Facebook page, which also features many of the Rapuzzi Collection artifacts. It can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/KlondikeGoldRushAlaska