City looks to restore mine buildings

Juneau given $10,000 grant to help preserve historic structures

Posted: Sunday, October 15, 2006

Although the foundation of Juneau was built on the backs of gold miners, only a few of the mining-era buildings are more than foundations.

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The city has been working to restore some of the remaining mining buildings for nearly a decade in an effort to preserve the unique history of the Last Chance Basin, city architect Gary Gillette said.

"There's only a few buildings that remain from the mining days, and most of them are in ruins so you don't get a feel for how they were," he said.

The city has received a $10,000 Historic Preservation grant from the Alaska Office of History and Archeology for restoration work on two former Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Co. buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Public Works and Facilities Committee will discuss accepting the grant, which requires the city to match 40 percent, at its regular meeting at noon Monday in the Assembly Chambers. If the committee accepts the grant, the proposal will be forwarded to the Assembly for consideration.

The Compressor Building, where the Last Chance Mining Museum is located, and the Transformer House and an air intake structure of the old AJ Mine are in need of some tender loving care, Gillette said.

"There's a lot of history there for the community," he said. "It's always good to have some tie back to history."

Third-generation Juneau resident Marie Darlin, a member of the Juneau Historic Resources Advisory Committee, said the buildings are a key part of the community's history.

"They're the last buildings left, actually, of all of the Alaska Juneau operation, so we are attempting to keep the preserved," she said.

Darlin's grandfather first came to Juneau to work in the Perseverance Mine, located farther up in Silverbow Basin. That mine is no longer there, so the community should work to preserve the few mining-era buildings that remain, she said.

"It's one of the biggest parts of our (local) history really, the mining aspect," Darlin said.

The nearly $17,000 proposed project would include replacing rotting wood on the Compressor Building and installing lateral bracing on the Transformer House. The federal grant money would go toward supplies, while the local match would come from volunteer time donated to the project, Gillette said.

"It's a good deal for the city and it helps save a building that they own," he said.

The city is required to use the federal grant money by Sept. 30, 2007, and Gillette said the project would likely be finished by end of next summer if ultimately approved by the Assembly.

Another former Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Company building located near the other two in the Jualpa Mine Camp Historic District, the Locomotive Repair Shop, is quickly fading into disarray and is in dire need of preservation work, Gillette said. The problem is the large building would require roughly a quarter-million dollars to preserve it, he said.

"Unfortunately there aren't many big grant programs out there, so we haven't been able to muster up the interest in supporting it," Gillette said. "That thing's in pretty bad shape, but like I said, that is a pretty major effort and we'll just have to see what people think."

It is in the best interest of the community to preserve and maintain these historic treasures to help future generations understand the significance of the mining industry to the community, Darlin said.

"It's all part of our history that we certainly want to hang on to as long as we can and keep them maintained, so we can keep them (and) so local people and tourists can visit them," she said.

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