February 11, 2011

Restoration of Soapy Smith's saloon (Jeff Smith's Parlor): Part 5.

Jeff Smith's Parlor jack-up off the foundation
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon
    (Click images to enlarge)

Inside the Parlor
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon

Bob Lyon, a historian at the National Park Service, as well as a professional photographer, in Anchorage, Alaska has been keeping me apprised of the restoration program for Jeff Smith’s Parlor. He is the editor of the recently published Park Study on the building, which is how we met. I am happy to report that plans and progress are moving along at a nice pace. Following is a condensed version of several emails I have received thus far. He plans to keep us up-to-date. Bob reports that in the last six months

The YMCA find
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon

“The building was completely cleared out, jacked up, archaeology finished underneath, new foundation poured, and the building lowered on to it. It's going to look pretty good when finished. There were some pretty odd things left under the building in a trench dug for a bomb shelter in WWII. Evidently Rapuzzi [George Rapuzzi, previous owner of the Parlor] didn't bother to fill it in when he moved the Parlor from 6th Ave. Well, he filled it in with odd junk. By the way, are you aware there is a replica of the Parlor in it’s second location on 6th? It's one of these dress-up-in-old-time-clothes for a photograph places. I've attached a couple of photographs of the Parlor jacked up. And, just for fun, a photograph of a gun [Smith and Wesson .32] that was found inside the wall of the old YMCA Gymnasium on State Street. My first thought was some kind of Soapy connection when maintenance found it, but that building wasn't constructed until 1900, so that's pretty unlikely. Interesting find, though.”

Damage found inside the walls
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon

The gun is indeed an interesting find. How did it get there? Was it place there intentionally, or was it dropped accidentally. This was 1900 and although Soapy Smith was gone, Skagway was still a dangerous place with new comers arriving and leaving every day. People still carried concealed guns for protection. I am letting my imagination get the best of me in thinking that the gun was possibly involved in a crime or murder and was intentionally dropped into the wall to hide the evidence.

East exterior wall, buidling jacked up
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon

That the NPS has started so quickly on the Parlor has rangers and historians in Skagway breathing easier as it has been known for some time that the building was slowing leaning to one side. Bob said that Park maintenance

West exterior wall, jacked up
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon

“…got quite a bit done this summer. I was amazed the building hadn't fallen down when they jacked it up and we saw just how little remained of the foundation. In fact, if it hadn't sunk into the ground I think it would have fallen down.”

What a horrible thought, that we came that close to losing such a monument to Skagway’s criminal past, not to mention one of only two buildings known to exist that housed Soapy Smith.

Underneith the Parlor a new foundation is constructed
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon

“You can see how bad the walls were deteriorating, sunk into the ground. Plans are proceeding. They're going to try to restore the Soapy manikin to function as it did in Itjen's day. Speaking of Itjen, I just bought a press photo of him in NYC in 1940, promoting Skagway.”

Martin Itjen
He is the man who created the Soapy museum
Photo courtesy of Bob Lyon

A huge thank you to Bob Lyon for taking these photographs and to the National Park Service for restoring the Parlor. We look forward to hearing more from  you Bob.



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