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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

The Yates Building
By Nicole Church


October 03, 2011

I would like to make the community aware of an opportunity that has recently presented itself. It appears that the Yates building, most recently known as the Seamen’s Center, can be saved from demolition. Restoration seems to be a possibility and at a reasonable cost. If a long term tenant, with a stable cash flow, and a mission that is acceptable to the Church were interested, it is believed by many that financing could be put together. But, it will take the work of Historic Ketchikan, the Ketchikan Historical Commission, the Tongass Historical Society, and the City Officials and Council along with a suitable tenant to make this happen.

To me, the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau seems like the ideal candidate.  It is remarkable timing that this possibility has presented itself, at a time when plans are being formulated to move the Visitors Bureau offices off the dock temporarily so that dock repair can take place over the next 2 years. The KVB is well suited to take the lead in assisting the community in their efforts to save a building that has played a major part in Ketchikan development since it was built in 1903.

It is seldom that a Visitors Bureau, anywhere, is giving an opportunity to be housed in a landmark building with such a rich historical significance to the residents. Many people still living in Ketchikan were born in the building when it served as the hospital. My husband’s mother, Jane Church, is one of them. Recently an information meeting concerning the fate of the building was held at St John’s Church. It was very well attended by locals who have a real interest in saving it. Many of them have already put a lot of work into determining how to best restore the building so it can be occupied. By moving the KVB administrative offices into the downtown community the town would be assured that this part of our history would not be lost.

The Alaska Sportsman Magazine publishing company was housed in the building for many years. The Magazine served as an unofficial Alaska Tourist Bureau for all the years it was published. It probably did more to promote and nurture the “Go North to the Last Frontier” desire in the hearts and minds of people than any other publication of its time. There are people still living in Ketchikan who remember going down to the dock and selling the Magazine to travelers when they got of the ships. What a fitting tribute to this publication for the KVB to carry on its current day tourism mission out of the same location.

Obviously, the Visitors Borough would still need to retain a presence on the dock, as it does now between berth one and two. It is important that a visitor information booth, restrooms, literature display and storage space and tour operator sales booths remain on the dock.  But, the administrative offices, conference room and reception area /gallery space could easily be housed in the Yates building.  At a time when Heritage Tourism has presented itself as a leading motivator for many tourists when making their travel plans, this move makes a lot of sense. The travel agents, tour operators, writers, photographers, film makers, government officials, business leaders, travelers and local residents who entered the building would experience our historical linkage to early Ketchikan first hand.  How wonderful it would be to see the KVB working with the community to preserve an authentic heritage tourism building that means so much to so many. I believe it would stand out for years to come as a major contribution made by one organization that truly benefited the whole community. A real win – win for everyone.

Nicole Church
Ketchikan, AK

Received September 30, 2011 - Published October 03, 2011


Local Landmark at a Crossroads; Town Meeting Planned to Discuss Fate of Historic Yates Building; Wednesday, September 28, 7:00 PM – The Arthur Yates Memorial Hospital building next to St. John’s Episcopal Church has been a Ketchikan landmark since 1905. It has served as Ketchikan’s first full-fledged hospital, St. John’s clergy house, headquarters for Alaska Sportsman magazine, Chamber of Commerce offices, and Seamen’s Center. Now it is at a crossroads. The Parish of St. John’s has no funds to rehabilitate and maintain the building, and is considering demolition of the structure. - More...
Published: Friday - September 23, 2011 - SitNews


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