Chitina Tin Shop Preservation Plan
Submitted to the Alaska Office of History and Archeology,
AHRS# VAL 049
by Art Koeninger, May 30, 1980
Reconstruction In Progress
Photo by Art Koeninger
The Chitina Tin Shop gains its significance for its historic association
with the development of Chitina, the Copper River & Northwestern
Railway the the Kennecott copper mining era. The oldest of the original
town site buildings still standing, the Tin Shop is associated with
two prominent pioneers of the region, Fred M. Schaupp and O.A. Nelson.
With the arrival of the Copper River & Northwestern Railway
in September of 1910, the new town of Chitina also sprouted its
own weekly newspaper, The Chitina Leader , published in Cordova.
An article in the October 1, 1910 issue entitled "Chitina Has
a Future" accurately describes Chitina's significance to the
area and to Alaska: "... We are the center and will be the
general distributing point for the greatest copper belt ever discovered.
... Chitina is the terminus of the trail to the interior and will
derive benefit from all the development of that wonderful country.
... We are the only railroad division point in Alaska and the payroll
the railroad makes possible is what every town needs for its success."
In a flourish of optimism the article went to state, "As soon
as the world at large learns of the wonderful wealth and opportunities
our section offers we will see an ever increasing stream of prospectors,
tourists and investors coming to our town. ... A more beautiful
spot for a city could not exist. We are absolutely sheltered from
all wind (sic), have most magnificent scenery, pure water, natural
drainage and, in fact, everything one could wish for to make a perfect
town." Not uncomplimentary words to be coming from an officer
of the town site [development] company.
Sled Team, Winter 1910-1911
Photo by Fred M. Schaupp
Indeed, the optimism was well founded as the town and its newspaper
prospered over the next twenty years. Business and homes rose on
the cleared town site. The prospectors, tourists and investors came,
registering at any of several hotels. The trail to the interior
became known as the Edgerton Cutoff, and the Alaska Road Commission
established a district office and road crew in Chitina in 1918.
A school was built and a teacher was employed. (For some reason
only single women were employed, with the risk of losing their jobs
should they mary. There were three or four married, former teachers
residing in the town at one point, and whether this was a result
of the curious hiring rule, or a cause of it, is not clear.) A hydroelectric
plant supplied power to the town, and a water system utilizing circulating
hot water provided running water year round. The automobile and
aeroplane increased in significance. A drug store, hardware store,
tin shop, Alaska Brotherhood Hall, post office, telephone company,
dry goods store, pool hall, bakery, livery, jail and Republican
Party all symbolized Chitina's growth. The drama of life in this
depot town and that of McCarthy and Kennicott unfolded weekly, juxtaposed
in the paper with news from around the Territory and the rest of
the world. Copper from this area was primarily used for the United
States effort in World War I.
"Great spot. Love the building."
Park City, UT
Like so many other dreams, Chitina's dreams for the future could
not last forever. With the completion in 1923 of the Alaska Railroad
from Seward to Fairbanks, Chitina was no longer a part of the major
supply route to the interior. The projected extension of the CR&NW
to the interior never developed, nor did the nearby Bering coal
fields. The high graded copper ore production peaked out in the
mid-twenties. By 1930 the Chitina Leader ceased printing. With declining
production, declining copper prices on the economically depressed
world market, and with increased labor difficulties, the Guggenheim-Morgan
Trust found it more profitable to exploit South American resources.
By 1938 the Kennecott mines had shut down completely and the last
CR&NW train left for Cordova.
|Dog Team & Automobile
|July 4 Celebration, 1911
Photo by Fred M. Schaupp
With the demise of the copper mining and the railroad, Chitina's
population dwindled from its high of 176 in 1939 to its (1980) size
of 40 ( back to 123 in 2000). The hydroelectric plant burned down
in the early forties... The local economy was reduced to dependence
on tourism, hunting and fishing, and local prospecting. Many of
its more notable structures have burned down or have been demolished.
History of the Chitina Tin Shop (Spirit Mountain Artworks)
"Your shop, by far, had the finest
quality and most diverse selection of artwork by Alaskan craftspersons
that I saw. It was most refreshing to be in a shop that had
different and unusual items . . . I definitely recommend it
to anyone that I know that is headed your way."
In the October 1, 1910 issue of the Chitina Leader, under the Local
News column among tidbits of gossip about the railroad, was the
following item: "Fred Schaupp, the sheet metal worker, is having
a two story frame building erected over his tent, and in a few days
will be shaped up for winter." On the same page was a display
ad, reading: :FRED M. SCHAUPP, Manufacturer in Sheet Metal...STOVES,
RANGES and HEATERS." The ad ran for a couple of months and
was dropped. The October 8, 1910 issue proclaimed under the same
Local News column: "Fred Schaupp, the sheet metal worker, now
has his two story frame building completed. He has arranged cozy
and comfortable living quarters in the second story for he (sic)
and Mrs. Schaupp and is getting nicely settled for the winter."
Judging from the newspaper articles and from old photographs of
Chitina, this Tin Shop was among the first buildings to go up and
apparently it is the oldest of the original town site buildings
still standing. ...
Schaupp's name appears on wooden slats inside walls and ceiling
of the original part of the building. These were apparently taken
from shipping crates. A shipping label also appears on the side
of a sheet metal sink which Schaupp seems to have constructed. Under
the floor canvas of the kitchen and bedroom are copies of the San
Francisco Examiner date January, 1913.
In this building much of the metal fabricating and repair work
for the region was done. Some of the items made in the Tin Shop
included stoves, stove pipes, stack robbers, safeties, flashing
and other sheet work. Schaupp also did welding and fabricating as
well as repair work for guns, wagons, trains and autos, necessary
for the commerce and transportation of the area. Fred also kept
the official weather records in 1917 and 1918. Schaupp's work is
still extant on some of the older buildings in the area. Occasionally
an old stack robber or copper pan with Schaupp's stamp on it will
Photo by Art Koeninger
According to "old timers" from the area, the Schaupps
were newly married when they moved to Chitina. Mrs. (Charity) Schaupp
was a graduate of Stanford University. The Chitina Leader makes
occasional reference to their social life. They had two daughters
and a son while living in Chitina (Son Fred and daughter Katherine
returned to visit Chitina in the late '80s, and Katherine returned
again in 2004 at age 92.) When the economy slowed down in the twenties
the Schaupps moved to Cordova for business purposes and to furnish
their children with a secondary education.
The property and its equipment passed to O.A. Nelson, a railroad
civil engineer and a major figure in Chitina's history. Nelson eventually
obtained title to most of the town site and its buildings. Nelson's
brother-in-law, Fred Kolkloff, a semiretired sheet metal worker,
maintained the building and equipment for a number of years. In
1945 Nelson extended the building, which by then was being utilized
for auto and diesel repair and for plumbing work. The heavier metalworking
equipment was sold off in the fifties and the building was used
principally for storage. After Nelson's death in the early sixties,
the building declined seriously, changing hands several times. The
present owner has warranty title to the property, as listed in Book
5, pages 584 & 585 of the Chitina Recording District.
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Spirit Mountain Artworks | PO Box 22 Chitina, AK
99566 | email@example.com
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