A friend of mine had a couple of relatives in town this past week. They had shown me around Buffalo, NY when I paid that city a visit recently, so I took a day off to return the favor. They wanted to see some places that were uniquely Interior Alaska, so we ventured out the Steese Highway to the little mining community of Chatanika.
The Fairbanks Exploration Company, or the more commonly used, F.E. Company, was the big player in gold mining in the Fairbanks area in the first half of the 20th Century. Their largest gold camp was out in Chatanika, with workers mostly working the gold dredges. The F.E. Gold Camp was built in 1925, and it’s a beautiful 25 minute drive, or so, from Fairbanks to Chatanika over Cleary Summit.
In recent years, the Gold Camp has been run as a restaurant, bar and hotel. As of Sunday, it will be under new ownership. The current owners would not give me any information on the new owners or their plans for the historic camp.
Being the Fairbanks area, we were greeted upon arrival by the camp dog. After the obligatory ear scratching and tail wagging, we were able to get a nice tour of the camp from a woman whose father cooked for the miners on the giant wood cookstove back in the late 1940’s.
I’ve been out to the camp many times, but this was the first time I explored the upstairs. There are 8-10 guest rooms on the second floor of the main building, along with two restrooms. The complex also has an adjacent bunkhouse.
Between 1926 and 1957, over $70 million worth of gold was removed by the F.E. Company. During that time span, the gold camp had a population larger than Fairbanks with over 10,000 residents.
The Gold Camp is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.