Hougen Group

The Old Log Church

It’s a quiet little building very close to the hustle and bustle of downtown Whitehorse. It has the feeling of a sanctuary. And so it should. In 1900, when Whitehorse was just a few blocks wide and long, Anglican missionary William Bompas visited the town and decided it needed a place of worship.

So he instructed Rev. R. J. Bowen, who had been ministering to the gold seekers and native people at Forty Mile and Dawson City, to go to Whitehorse and build a church.

Bowen and his wife Susan travelled to Whitehorse on a steamboat in August 1900. The following day they began, work on a temporary church on the lot which is now called Bishop Stringer Park, between the old log and the new Christ Church cathedrals.

Then, with community help, construction on a permanent log church began and was completed in October. The first service was held in the new log church on Sunday October 7th, 1900. A section of the church was partitioned and used as living quarters for the Bowen family until the log rectory was completed in the spring of 1901.

The bell tower on the old log church was originally separate from the church, but in 1910, it fell over in a storm and the bell was cracked. A new bell was placed atop the church and it was enclosed in 1945.

In 1953, the church was named the Cathedral Church of the Anglican Diocese of the Yukon, thus making it the first log cathedral. Soon the church proved too small for the growing congregation and in 1960, the new Christ Church Cathedral was constructed.

The old log church has seen its share of famous people pass through the doors. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, read a scripture there during the royal visit of 1959. Unfortunately, Queen Elizabeth was ill with morning sickness on that day and could not attend the service.

Poet Robert Service was a vestry clerk during his four-year stay in Whitehorse and often recited the poems of Rudyard Kipling to the congregation before reading his own slightly more ribald stuff. And it was the editor of the Whitehorse Star who suggested that Service write and recite his own stuff as he was preparing for concert at the old log church.

In 1978 the Yukon government designated the Old Log Church and Rectory as a Territorial Historic Site. Today, the Old Log Church serves as a museum.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin