Thursday, May 14, 2015

Treadwell, Not in the Brochure

Uno made her way around Douglass Island the following morning and arrived safely at her assigned space in Auke Bay.  Phil and Uno were able to get a flight home to Anchorage that next morning; we will miss their company and hope to see them again in the near future.  The rest of our time in Juneau and Douglass was spent doing a little more sightseeing, including driving up to the local ski area; it appears similar to Stevens Pass, Washington.  A new, modern looking ski lodge was just being completed and will open for this year’s ski season.  
Historic Photo - Treadwell 300 Mill and Vanner Room of 1915
One of the most fascinating outings in the area is a visit to the once famous Treadwell Mine Company site.  While moored at the docks on Douglass Island (located across Gastineau Channel from Juneau), we met Dave, a long-time local.  He told us about a nearby historic site and we were immediately captivated.  “Where is it?” we asked.  “It’s right over there.”  He pointed to the beach about a block away from the marina.  We found the sandy beach and a pathway that lead into the woods.  
Treadwell Mine Office Building
The further we went, the more placards, mining equipment, and ruins appeared.  Our mouths dropped with amazement as we began to comprehend the grandeur that this site had once represented.  Dave was right, it is the local’s best kept secret, no throngs of people will be coming here because it’s not in the brochures.  Numerous placards throughout the extensive trail system covers so much information that it is hard to know where to start.  I will share some of the historic photos and highlights as provided in the park, along with photos we took while walking through the grounds.  
"The Glory Hole" Pit Operation
The site is where gold was discovered by Pierre Erussard in May 1881; not realizing its significance, Pierre sold the claim to John Treadwell in September for $400. 
The Treadwell Mine was an open pit operation (“the Glory Hole”) from 1882 until 1906 at which time surface mining ceased and work moved underground.  By 1899 there were 300 “stamps,” each weighing 1,020 pounds which crushed or stamped six tons of ore daily.  
A Five-Stamp Crusher
Treadwell had the largest number of stamps under one roof in the world and operated every day of the year except Christmas and the Fourth of July; miners worked various shifts.  By 1915 the Treadwell mines had 960 stamps crushing a world-record 5,000 tons of ore daily.  
Penstock for "Glory Hole"
An 18-mile long aqueduct was constructed to collect water from upland streams to power the mills and a Penstock (large pipe) brought water to the Glory Hole.  
1914 Salt-water Pump House
A salt-water Pump House was built in 1914 at the end of a 600 foot long pier.  Salt water was used for milling during the winter months when fresh water sources were frozen over.  Three centrifugal pumps lifted 2,700 gallons of water a minute from Gastineau Channel.  
Vanner Rollers
In the 29,000 square foot Vanner Room stood 120 cylindrical Frue Vanners that rolled and crushed rock in a constant flow of water.  Waste rock went over the top while gold-bearing ore remained at the bottom.  
A Beautiful Sandy Beach at Treadwell Mines
After the gold was extracted from the mills, 26 million tons of tailings (pulverized rock/ore) were deposited along the rocky shoreline, forming 50 acres of sandy beach.  The Alaska Treadwell Gold Mining Company provided residential neighborhoods for families of skilled workers and supervisors.  The three and four bedroom houses were supplied with running water, sewer, steam heat, and electricity.  
Remaining Pillars from Bunkhouses
Four large bunkhouses were constructed for miners who were single and included lights, heat, showers/tubs, bedding, and furnishings.  The concrete foundation pillars of the bunkhouses remain and can be seen along the trail.  
Treadwell Bunkhouses, Historic Photo
When employees were not working, they could enjoy a number of activities at the Treadwell Club which housed a billiards room, bowling alley, sauna, Turkish baths, theater, and reading room.  There were also handball and tennis courts, a gymnasium, an athletic field, and a heated swimming pool, sounds nice! A Plaza near the Superintendent’s mansion was the gathering place for festivities - it was flooded for an ice skating rink in the winters.  
Power Plant
Built in 1897, the mansion was larger than the Alaska Governor’s House.  
Power Plant
A large Mess Hall for the employees served three meals a day plus a bakery that produced fresh bread, pies, and doughnuts.  
Treadwell Post Office
There was also a butcher shop, post office, school, and general store.  By 1890 the Treadwell Company Store was the largest and best equipped general merchandise establishment in Alaska.  The Treadwell mine, developed 14 years after the 1867 Alaska Purchase and 17 years prior to the Klondike Gold Rush, created a base of jobs and commerce and brought thousands of people to Alaska.  
"The Sink Hole" - Flooded Mine Tunnels
In April 1917 an extremely high tide combined with weakened underground pillars caused water from Gastineau Channel to pour into three of the four Treadwell mines, collapsing the complex system of tunnels.  Miners were evacuated but horses, mules, and machinery were lost. The fourth mine ceased operation in 1922. 
Cottages and Milk Delivery - buildings lost in fire
Unfortunately, in October of 1926 a huge fire (The Douglass Fire) driven by strong seasonal winds destroyed most of Treadwell’s wooden buildings, boardwalks, and wharfs.

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