December 16, 2012

Soapy Smith museum restoration: part 19

Ticket for the Martin Itjen
museum in the Meyer building
circa 1920
(photo courtesy of Bob Lyon)

ur very fine friend, Bob Lyon, historian over at the National Park Service in Anchorage sent me another gem of information. You may recall in past posts that there was a possibility that early Skagway tour guide icon Martin Itjen may have started a museum in the Meyer building previous to opening one in Jeff Smith's Parlor. Bob now states that,

We can be quite certain Itjen operated a museum in the 1920s, probably the one I mentioned in the Meyer Building at Fifth and State. Attached are a ticket [see above] for that museum (no address given--darn that Martin!) and an ad [see below] from the Skagway Alaskan in the 1920s (also no location). The signs Becky Shaffer and I uncovered, as well as the sign at the docks, all named the museum, "Museum of '98." To complicate the story, Rapuzzi and one of his brothers had a museum in the Pantheon building in the 1920s, as well. It's mentioned in Clifford's book, The Skagway Story--but no address. One of our interns, Aaron Wood, discovered a photograph taken in the 1920s with a large sign on the corner where the Pantheon is, saying "MUSEUM," with an arrow pointing west along Fifth. I've also seen a photograph of a dogsled displayed in front of the Pantheon, but not enough of the building shows to tell if it was part of any sort of museum at that time. Too many questions!

Itjen Museum of '98 ad
Skaguay, Alaskan
circa 1920s
(photo courtesy of Bob Lyon)

The Meyer block was constructed in 1899 by Herman Meyer for his Arctic Meat Company. The gymnasium on the far end was constructed between March-May 1900. It closed in December 1901. In 1902 Meyer purchased the gym to expand his meat market. In 1903 Meyer's meat business closed and the buildings closed to renters in 1910. By 1914 the buildings were listed as abandoned.

My original post had the following passage. 
Before 1920 Martin Itjen purchased the buildings and opened his Museum of '98. Later, he purchased and placed his collection inside Jeff. Smith's Parlor. 
Mr. Lyon sent me the corrections and additional information below (thanks Bob!). 
Actually, Rapuzzi bought these buildings in 1921 and 1922. The YMCA he bought from the city (unpaid taxes, I'm guessing) for $60 in gold. Doesn't say if it was dust or coins (I really wanted to record it as 60 pieces of gold or doubloons or something, but NPS wouldn't go for that sort of joke). The Meyer Building he bought from Carstens Bros. Packing Company of Tacoma--a meat packing company that bought the building and business (Arctic Meat Company) from Herman Meyer in 1902. They must have kept up the taxes on the Meyer Building. Itjen didn't own them at any time, but, considering his friendship with Rapuzzi, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Itjen had a museum in a Rapuzzi building.
There's a very convoluted history of Meyer and Carstens. Meyer bought the lot from Carstens in 1899 for $1. He'd been a partner with Frye-Bruhn Co., another meatpacking firm from Seattle. As such he was sued by Carstens for not paying for a shipment of meat. Then Carstens bought the business from Meyer in late 1902, but didn't actually buy the lot from Meyer until a year later, for $1. When Meyer left Skagway for Valdez in 1903, he was a partner with Carstens in a local trading venture. In 1918, he was back in Seattle and a partner again with Carstens in a nut importing business. There's more, but I'll spare you. Actually, if you look at who owned what in early Skagway, at one point Meyer owned the lot that Soapy's is on now. Lots were divided and sub-divided and it can be very difficult to figure out who owned what when.

When Itjen passed away George Rapuzzi inherited the business and kept the museum in the Parlor going, while using the Meyer building as storage. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (National Park Service) now owns all the Meyer buildings and Jeff. Smith's Parlor and his restoring them.

The Meyer block
Fifth Street and State
Skagway, Alaska
(photo courtesy of Jim Wayne)

I've mentioned this probability but selfishly hoped something would change in our favor. We knew this day was coming, but still, I am sad to report that we are losing Mr. Bob Lyon as a contact for Skagway, Alaska restoration progress. Mr. Lyon writes,

I'm done with Skagway for now, working on a National Register nomination for the first NPS building at Glacier Bay National Park.

We are so thankful for all he has done for us, and of course we hope the very best for him in whatever he does. He is always welcome here!

Bob Lyon and museum restoration

February 4, 2009 (Part 1)
February 19, 2009 (Part 2)  
March 31, 2010 (Part 3)  
August 7, 2010 (Part 4) 
February 11, 2011 (Part 5) 
April 5, 2011 (Part 6)
May 8, 2011 (Part 7)
May 17, 2011 (Part 8)
November 20, 2011 (Part 9)
March 21, 2012 (Part 10)
March 30, 2012 (Part 11)
June 20, 2012 (Part 12)
August 8, 2012 (Part 13)
August 29, 2012 (Part 14)
September 1, 2012 (Part 15)
September 26, 2012 (Part 16)
October 4, 2012 (Part 17)
December 6, 2012 (Part 18)

Today's quote is in honor of Bob Lyon
"It is frustrating as hell, yet exhilarating at the same time,
to know that historical research never ends."
—Jeff Smith


1773: Nearly 350 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor off of British ships by colonial patriots. The patriots were disguised as Indians. The act was to protest taxation without representation and the monopoly the government granted to the East India Company.
1811: A major earthquake rocks 30,000-square-miles of the wilderness in Missouri. Legend and estimations say the quake may have been as high as 8.6 in magnitude, which would make it the largest known earthquake in north America. Little is known because the area was sparsely inhabited. Frontiersman Daniel Boone's stone home near present day Defiance, Missouri moved a few inches off its foundation. It is claimed that the earthquake raised and lowered parts of the Mississippi Valley by as much as fifteen feet and changed the course of the Mississippi River. Tremors were felt along the east coast of the United States, shaking hard enough to make church bells ring.
1835: Fire in New York destroys 530 buildings.
1875: A lone highwayman robs the San Juan, California stagecoach.
1881: A grand jury in Tombstone, Arizona Territory refuses to indict the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday for the murder of Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury.
1884: The World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana opens to the public for a six month fair. Soapy Smith writes that he attended the affair, most likely operating short cons to fleece the gullible of their money.
1901: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter is published.
1903: The first female ushers are employed at the Majestic Theatre in New York City.
1905: Sime Silverman publishes the first issue of Variety magazine.

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