A History of Whitehorse

By Tim Lambert

The town of Whitehorse was founded after gold was found in Yukon in 1896. In 1897 many people were camping in the area and soon the tents were replaced by permanent buildings. It’s believed the town takes its names from nearby rapids because they reminded people of the manes of white horses. People also discovered copper near Whitehorse.

Then in 1900, the railway reached the town. Also in 1900 Old Log Church was built. Donnenwerth House was built in 1905. When the Alaskan Highway was built in 1942 it provided a boost for the town and the population grew rapidly. Log Skyscrapers were built in 1947.

Meanwhile, Whitehorse International Airport was built in 1941 and Whitehorse became the capital of Yukon in 1953. A dam for hydroelectricity was built in 1958.

By 1971 the population of Whitehorse had risen to 11,000. By 1991 it was nearly 18,000 and it continued to grow rapidly.

The writer Pierre Berton was born in Whitehorse in 1920.

Tourism in Whitehorse

Today Tourism is an important industry in Whitehorse. Old Log Church became a museum in 1962. MacBride Museum of Yukon History was built in 1967. Yukon Transportation Museum opened in 1990 and Beringia Interpretive Centre opened in 1997.

Whitehorse is also known for SS Klondike, a sternwheeler launched in 1937. Whitehorse Waterfront Trolley began operating in 2000. Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre opened in 2012.

In 2024 the population of Whitehorse was 28,000.

The Whitehorse Horse by Daphne Mennell