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Empire Editorial: Repairs needed to save iconic structure

Posted: September 5, 2013 - 11:11pm

Juneau has many places that are special. For some this includes buildings, like the newly-renovated lodge at the Shrine of St. Therese. Other times it’s areas people think about when they tell friends and relatives about our beautiful city — historic downtown, the wildlife at Steep Creek or the neighborhoods perched on steep hillsides. Of course, there’s also the Mendenhall Glacier, the State Capitol Building with its brick and columns now under reconstruction — and the decaying pump house at Sandy Beach.

The Treadwell Pump House is one of many ruins from the old Treadwell Mine complex, but it is also one of the most photographed and otherwise sketched or painted scenery elements in Juneau.

We’re glad to hear that progress is being made to cover the structure. We hope it is stabilized and feel the effort needed to do so is well worth preserving such an icon.

According to the city website, http://www.juneau.org, the building was built in 1914 on a 600-foot wharf that is, of course, now long gone. It supplied salt water for mine operations and fire protection and was used during the cold winters. Two huge pumps moved 2,700 gallons of saltwater per minute.

Then, the pump house served a distinct purpose. Now, nearly 100 years old it’s fair to say its purpose is a bit lacking. But in its own quiet way it must remain.

The pump house is part of Juneau’s rich history and a constant reminder not only of our past, but also the impermanence of our endeavors and humanity’s constant battle against the elements of nature.

There’s many a Taku wind this structure has withstood.

Once Sandy Beach was a bustling center of industry.

On April 21, 1917 at 10:57 p.m. signs of what would be a disastrous cave-in were discovered and miners scrambled for their lives as water and debris began filling the mine. In three-and-a-half hours the 2,800-foot-deep mine was destroyed. The miners were saved; but one mine animal and much equipment was lost. Only the Ready Bullion Mine area survived, along with the pump house.

So, let’s keep this historic relic around, Juneau. Let’s make sure it stays in the backgrounds of our Fourth of July photographs. Let’s do what we can to keep it standing tall under the northern lights of winter. It’s a reminder not only of how important mining was — and continues to be — to Juneau, it’s also a stark reminder of how fast things can change.

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