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Business Stories

SALOON LIFE DURING THE GOLD RUSH

Legends & Lies is a historic hands-on acting and drink making tour at the Skagway Inn in Skagway, Alaska

by Greg Klupar

A month ago


During the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, the newly built town of Skagway, Alaska housed 80 (illegal) saloons. Saloons were the lifeblood of the community where men went to get news, boast about rich strikes, play cards, make deals, and find female companionship as they traveled to and from the Yukon, Canada for gold. Skagway was their port of call.

When you join Legends & Lies, you will travel back to those bygone days of the last great gold rush and experience life in a gold rush saloon.

Developed by Rosemary Libert, this shrewd combination of theater, interactive song, food, and drink keeps the Gold Rush of 1898 alive. With a degree in art from Boston College, Rosemary tries to immerse herself in art wherever she can. She and her husband, Karl Klupar, own Lynch & Kennedy, a local art gallery, as well as The Historic Skagway Inn, the setting for your tour experience.

Rosemary thinks of Alaska as a land of opportunity for her and her guests. “The optimism of the gold rush and the excitement prospectors had when they first arrived here has never really left. That’s what I love about my job; I get to meet interesting people from all over the world on a personal level.” 

Legends & Lies, a historic gold rush saloon experience shares what saloon life was like during the gold rush in Skagway, Alaska

The experience begins with an intimate driving tour (if you’re lucky you’ll get Karl as your personal guide) of town to a scenic lookout overlooking the Klondike Gold Rush National Park Historic District, which still holds 15 restored historic buildings.

Once you arrive at The Historic Skagway Inn, you will be greeted by actual characters from the gold rush like your narrators Klondike Kate, the most famous dance hall girl of her time, and Big Ed Burns, one of the town’s mobsters, who will bring to life the stories of the gold rush.

Here, you will find singing, dancing, gambling, and drinking and you will even make your own stampeder libations such as Birdie’s Bucking Caribou concoction, a surprisingly delicious tequila and chocolate drink or Alice’s Gold Digger made with bourbon, artful rosemary maple syrup and real gold flakes. Enjoy food from Olivia's Bistro such as salmon quesadillas, mini halibut cakes, chips and rhubarb salsa, and pigs in blankets made with reindeer meat.

You will experience the short con games of legendary Skagway con-men like Soapy Smith, whose mobster men used games such as Three Card Monte and other tricks to loot gold from men who came into their bar, like the unsuspecting JD Stewart, who was robbed of his gold poke worth $77,000 dollars (in today’s dollar) in the alleyway just behind the saloon room, leading to the fatal shooting of Soapy Smith himself.

Not only were the men untrustworthy, but “commission girls” trapped any Klondiker traveling through. In an era where whiskey was $0.25, beer was a nickel, and a new suite cost $2.50, women charged $1.00 for a dance and were paid in gold dust.

The 2.5 hour tour ends with a look at the upstairs 10-room bed and breakfast, which operated as a brothel during the gold rush. Each room is named after ladies that were known to work there, as stated by the police blotter: Alice, Birdie, Cleo, Dottie, Essie, Flo, Grace, Hattie, Ida, and Kitty.

Join us in our saloon during your trip to Skagway and experience Skagway as it once was. This is one of the few authentic history tours in town and the only one with hands on drink-making.