A Town in Transition

The Portland House renovation brings to light the building’s original exterior. It was originally built by Skagway homesteader Capt. William Moore and was later transformed into a gold rush hotel. Most recently it was a restaurant and boarding house.

Cityscape changes with demolition

Visitors thinks this town goes dead off-season. They’re dead wrong.
Major changes occur here after the last ship cruises down the canal. In fact it gets a lot noisier with saws, nailgunners, backhoes, dump trucks and loaders going full tilt.
This year sees a major change in the cityscape.
Next season there will be no less than three new buildings, and three less restaurants.
The Northern Lights Pizzeria was demolished this fall, as was Dee’s Restaurant. The Portland House Restaurant had no meal service this summer, and is in the process of being renovated from the ground up.
Dee’s, on Second across from the rail depot, will be replaced by a gift shop, as will the new Barger building at the corner of Second and Broadway. The original structures were set a ways off the boardwalk, but the new ones will come right up to it. Jewell Construction is building on Barger’s site and Gary Heger Construction on Dee’s.
Portland House co-owner Virginia Long said the only thing she’s sure about her building project is it will have housing, and the original storefront on the State Street side will be restored. Other than that, she’s not sure.

The Barger building, most recently home to Klassique Jewelers, will be replaced with this building at the corner of Second and Broadway.

The foundation’s been dug up and replaced with concrete footings and pressure-treated timbers.
There’s been some surprises, she said. Like the first floor room with the sloping, spongy floor is fine, it was just boarded over with inferior plywood. That’s why it was bouncy.
The old shiplap siding has been uncovered on the south side under layers of asphalt shingles.
An architect from the National Park Service advised her that one of the outbuildings is most likely a prostitute’s crib, and she wants to move it to make it a separate building on the lot.

David Brena’s new building butts up to The Mercantile on Second Avenue.

Long has been doing some of the work herself, but said, “I’m not 30 anymore and one day’s work takes me a day to recover.”
She wants to have a part of the inside wall glassed in so people can see the multitude of layers from the siding to the wallpaper.
New housing for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service personnel is going up at the corner of State and Second consisting of two, two-plexes. It’s a stick frame building, said Gary Heger of Heger Construction.
Not so with the 8,900 square-foot building that will replace Dee’s Restaurant. Heger is building that with walls of structural insulated panels.
Owner David Brena of Alyeska Realty Advisors in Juneau said it will be leased as a gift shop with an apartment and storage space upstairs. He said he was not at liberty to say who will lease the space.
The color will be muted taupe colors, he said. The retail space will have 12-foot ceilings with wood floors.
Jewell Construction is putting up a new building on the spot of the Northern Lights Restaurant that will be a retail space if it is leased, but the owners may revert to a restaurant if it does not go out to lease.
Jewell is also in charge of the building to replace Barger’s Fine Gifts. Dennis Corrington has leased the site from Bill Barger.
The Miner’s Cache is in the process of being sold. Long-time owner Shirley Mitchell said she’s excited about the possibilities of what she will do with her life now.

Wayne Selmer watches the family home being torn down on Seventh.

She said the Sabrosa Cafe and Deli will retain its current location.
The old Selmer home at Broadway and Seventh was razed, with Judy Selmer salvaging the wanigan for housing. What will go on that lot is not certain, said Stan Selmer. – Story and Photos by Dimitra Lavrakas

'Poke Pincher' revealed

John D. O’Daniel, painter Bea Lingle’s son, stands next to his mother’s mural in the old snac shack.

When the old Mae’s Snack Shack (recently Northern Lights Pizzeria) came tumbling down on Oct. 30 to make room for a new building, a cinder block wall was uncovered with a mural by local painter Bea Lingle.
Construction workers scrambled to notify family members before the wall came down as well. Lingle’s son, John O’Daniel, left, sneaks a peak as Nick Rodig works the backhoe.
Reached by phone at her winter home in Mesa, Arizona, Lingle said she painted the wall for restaurant owner Mae Heidelberger sometime in the 1960s.
“She had been ordered to put in a fire wall out of cement blocks and wanted something on it since it was in front of the old counter where people sat,” Lingle said. “Mae wanted the ‘Shooting of Dan McGrew’ in life size.”
Lingle was a dancer in the Days of ‘98 Show, which performed a rendition of the famous Robert Service poem for visitors. The scene at the end of the poem was fixed in her mind, but she had to paint the characters a certain way.
“I had to paint them all nude at first to get the arms and legs right ... when the customers came in the next morning they were quite shocked. I came back the next day and painted clothes on them.”
Lingle said there’s another mural like it still hidden on a wall in Moe’s Frontier Bar, and there was one in the old Pantheon Saloon building.
“They cover up all my walls...” she sighed. – JEFF BRADY