Standing on 160 acres of undeveloped land, the Moore Homestead was a humble cabin, representing the hopes and dreams of a family amidst a rapidly changing environment. While visiting Skagway, a trip to the Moore Homestead provides an opportunity to step back in time and witness the origin of this historic town. We visited the homestead on our Alaskan Cruise stop here in Skagway.
Captain William Moore and the First Home in Skagway
Standing on 160 acres of undeveloped land, the Moore Homestead was a humble cabin, representing the hopes and dreams of a family amidst a rapidly changing environment. While visiting Skagway, a trip to the Moore Homestead provides an opportunity to step back in time and witness the origin of this historic town.
Captain William Moore and his son J. Bernard (Ben) Moore settled in this valley to capitalize on a future gold rush. Their struggles to adapt to the changes brought by an overwhelming tide of people reflect the huge impact of the Klondike Gold Rush on the local scene.
Designing for Survival: The Humble Beginnings
The original Moore Homestead cabin, small and unassuming, served as the family’s first dwelling. Built strategically with the challenging weather conditions in mind, the cabin was designed to stay cool in the summer and warm in the freezing winters. The interior was sparsely lit, with light entering through two doors and one window. The single-room layout required clever use of shelving and storage on the walls, while beds were placed at the centre of the home. It is only when you get up close do you realize that it’s very small. This was the cabin, the first home. The family then built a larger home next door which is the focus of your visit. This is the cabin today…
You can take a virtual tour inside of the property courtesy of the NPS website.
Moore Homestead 2.0 – Expanding Dreams and Fortune
In 1897, Ben and his wife Minnie built a new one-and-a-half story wood frame house directly in front of their original cabin. As the town and their fortunes grew, they expanded the property. The family wealth came from their early investments in the land, and the development of sawmills, selling wood to the prospectors, and from the wharf, charging for docking ships.
This larger building is now home to a small museum that documents the life of the Moore family living in Skagway.
The History Of The Homestead
Their life was certainly not easy. They had to battle with a growing population of [sometimes desperate] prospectors and battle against prejudice of an interracial marriage.
Ben’s wife Minnie was from the Tlingit tribe which but tried to raise her children in the Victorian tradition. Despite their wealth and status, the family were rarely invited to social gatherings and Minne’s family were equally distant.
A Tale of Triumphs and Challenges: The History of the Homestead
The larger building now houses a small museum, preserving the history of the Moore family’s life in Skagway. The museum offers visitors an intimate look into the challenges and complexities the family faced. As an interracial couple, Ben and Minnie Moore had to navigate social prejudices, battling against prejudice and judgment in a growing community of prospectors. Minnie, belonging to the Tlingit tribe, sought to raise her children with Victorian traditions, but despite their wealth, the family often found themselves excluded from social gatherings.
Hidden Gem of History: The Moore Homestead Today
Visiting the museum gave us a first-hand view of what it would have been like to live in these times. The house includes many of the original artifacts from the home and family plus more information about the cultural history of the area and the family. Sadly there was not to be a happy ending, with estrangement, divorce, and suicide in later years.
Despite the number of tourists in town with the cruise ships, there weren’t many visitors to the house. We weren’t allowed to look upstairs and the girls did have a ‘feeling’ about the place. We were glad not to be the NPS guide staying in the house on his own…
If you do visit Skagway, take a few minutes to visit the Moore Homestead. It is free and worth seeing.