Since I visited the more touristy areas the first time I visited Seattle, I decided to visit the less expensive places the second time around. Turns out, Seattle is a super walk-able city, and the public transportation is pretty convenient and not that hard to figure out. Second stop (the first stop was the previous post) on this frugal, walking trip in Seattle is…
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park- Seattle Unit, located in Seattle, Washington
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park has hours that vary by season, from the fall to the spring, the hours are 10am to 5pm, and during the summer, the hours are 9am to 5pm. (Check the website for the hours or go after 10am to be sure it’s open.) The park is open daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas day and New Year’s Day, and admission is free. The historic park is easily accessible by public transportation (check the King County Metro website for more information), and for those who want to save a few bucks and are already in downtown Seattle, by walking. Seattle is easy to navigate, I walked all the way from Pike Place Market to the historic park in a half hours time (got my exercise in for the day, too). As for driving, I wouldn’t advise it, only street parking available. Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is different from a traditional park in that the park is in an enclosed building, and not an open-air space, so it’s actually more a museum to me than a park. (Hence the museum tag.)
The top floor of the building provides an overview of the Klondike Gold Rush that occurred in the Yukon territory in the 1890s, and Seattle’s part during the gold rush. The gold rush was significant in general because who doesn’t want to find gold and become rich. On a national level, the gold rush was significant because of the economy at the time. Money was backed by gold then, and various events caused the U.S. gold reserves to plummet, leading to a stock market crash, and finally, an economic depression. Thus, the announcement of the discovery of gold in the Yukon territory was a beacon of hope for the U.S. economy, thereby propelling the gold rush to national spotlight. As for Seattle’s part in the gold rush, Seattle was a young city at the time with a great transportation network that included both the railroad and steamships, and had ample surrounding woodlands and local industries to accommodate large amounts of people. Thus, the U.S. government heavily advertised Seattle as the place to outfit (as in stock up supplies) for the goldfields, thereby attracting thousands of gold seekers to Seattle. With this new frenzy of activity, the economy was revived, and established Seattle as a regional trade center. (Sorry for the history lesson, but it’s crucial to the enjoyment of the historical park. Any factual errors in the above are mine, I’m sure the historical park got the history correct.)
Since the park is history-based, there aren’t many hands on activities to engage visitors, thus the park introduces five real stampeders (gold seekers) that journeyed in search of gold. The building contained various interactive points where visitors can check up on their selected stampeder(s) and see how they fared in the journey and if they made it or not. (I followed Ethel Anderson.)
Part of the lower half of the building brings us through the journey that the stampeders took to seek their fortunes. There were various routes to reach the Yukon territory, and the conditions that gold seekers had to endure were treacherous in some occasions. Various artifacts, images, and replicas are presented throughout to allow visitors to take a glimpse of what life was like for the stampeders as they traveled to Klondike. Thousands of people went in search of gold, but striking gold is probably similar to the chances of winning the lottery. The park has a “Strike it Rich” wheel, which allows visitors to see the probability of them striking gold (I didn’t find gold, even though I spun more than once).
The other part of the lower floor shows the aftermath of the gold rush. Although the gold rush helped revive the U.S. economy, it impacted other areas negatively. The gold rush brought about a large movement of people to Alaska and Canada that disrupted the lives and cultures of the native people in those regions. In addition, the large scale mining for gold brought about significant devastation to the local environment. The causes and effects of the gold rush are known as the Klondike gold rush was a well documented event, as shown by the many images located throughout the building.
Also on the main floor of the building, visitors can get information on the historical Cadillac Hotel, which is the building that houses the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. The hotel has been in existence since the time of the gold rush, so the use of the hotel to situate the historic park is really fitting to connect the past and the present.
It took me approximately one hour to view the two floors of the historical park, but as always one can take more or less time depending on their interests. I think I should have spent more time as there is a lot to read (I’m pretty sure I skimmed through a lot of the information). The historical park is information heavy, which involves a lot of reading, so it would appeal more to the history crowd and adult visitors, then a family with children visiting on a rainy day. History has never been my strong point, so I learned plenty and definitely enjoyed my visit, since it’s always good to learn new things. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park- Seattle Unit may not be a must see destination for everyone, but if you happen to be in the area, take a peek inside, and learn something about history and Seattle.