This incredibly unusual-looking building stands out like a sore thumb in the historical corridor of Skagway. Thousands of sticks and pieces of driftwood cover every inch of the facade. Giant letters spelling out the initials “AB” poke through the assemblage of wood, hinting at the building’s past.
They stand for Arctic Brotherhood, the fraternal organization that formed in 1899 and adorned its local hall with over 8,800 bits of wood. The club’s symbol, a gold pan and gold nuggets, can be seen at the tip of the facade, and the date marks the overhang above the door.
The club was formed by a group of gold prospectors who arrived in Skagway from the City of Seattle ocean steamer, to set off for the Klondike gold fields seeking fortune. The club was a place for miners to connect and look out for each other. The local meeting hall, dubbed Camp Skagway No. 1, started with 11 members and soon grew to 300. Over time, the Brotherhood spread to other mining camps and at its height in the early 1900s had swelled to around 10,000 members.
Membership was limited to white males over age 18, living in the far north: Alaska, the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territory or British Columbia north of parallel 54 degrees. However, U.S. presidents Warren Harding, Teddy Roosevelt, and William McKinley were all honorary members, as was King Edward VII of England.
The rustic architecture-style building is now home of Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau. The strange and oft-photographed facade was renovated in 2004, when thousands of pieces of rotted wood were replaced.