• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 12s

Reliving gold’s glory at the Treadwell Mine, 100 years later

By Liz Raines Photojournalist: Cale Green - 9:05 PM April 20, 2017

People in Juneau are getting ready to celebrate a big anniversary.

Friday marks 100 years since the collapse of the Treadwell Gold Mine complex on Douglas Island, connected today to downtown Juneau by a bridge.

Treadwell launched Alaska into the national spotlight in 1882, but its prosperity was cut short suddenly on April 21, 1917.

The foundations of Alaska’s capital were figuratively set in gold from the mine. Easy access and quick energy from surrounding waters made Douglas the perfect site for a gold mine. And Treadwell wasn’t just any mine. At the time, it was the largest of its kind in the world.

“Treadwell was quite the enterprise, and it was actually Alaska’s first major development project,” said Paulette Simpson, president of the Treadwell Historic Preservation and Restoration Society.

The project started in 1882, when John Treadwell, of California, brought in a five-stamp mill to test the Douglas dirt. It was a sophisticated piece of machinery for its time. Grinding and testing the earth, Treadwell and the developing town of Douglas were about to strike it big:  over 3 million ounces of gold, valued today at more than $4 billion.

According to Simpson, the mine drew workers from around the world because wages were among the highest in the nation for the time.

“It was a wonderful place to live and the stories that were written down indicate that people had a wonderful life here,” she said.

Life around the mine was wonderful, until one day– one hundred years ago– it was over.

Treadwell’s 2000 employees enjoyed modern luxuries like a gym and pool, known as the natatorium. It was there that the first signs came, one century ago, that something was about to go terribly wrong.

“The women were swimming in the swimming pool that day, and all of a sudden the water drained out,” said Simpson. “The workmen were sent to do repairs, and then it became obvious that there was something going on that was causing the flood, and that’s why they sounded the alarm and were able to pull everyone out; one miner was unaccounted for.”

Three of Treadwell’s four mines caved in.

“It was a combination of three things: the mining stopes, which weakened the support for the mine, and the natural fault running through, and, then, the exceptionally high tides. That’s what did it,” Simpson explained.

The flooding forced the fall of a cornerstone of Alaska’s booming economy and made for front-page news stories across the country.

“It was a big deal at the time,” Simpson said.

Throughout time, first-hand accounts of the mine have faded. But even a century later, the pillars of the mine that made Alaska’s capital city famous are still standing strong.

The Treadwell Historic Preservation and Restoration Society will commemorate the 100th anniversary with a variety of activities through July, including walking tours and a miner’s ball this weekend. 

Latest Stories

  • News

    People Mover holding public meetings to discuss new bus system

    by Daniella Rivera on Jul 23, 18:06

    Changes to People Mover’s bus route system won’t go into effect until October, but public meetings are happening this week to get riders on board with the transit overhaul. The system will go from having 15 routes to 13 shorter, more direct routes with buses arriving more frequently, route numbers and colors will change, and […]

  • American student arrested in China has been freed, senator says

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Jul 23, 17:27

    BILLINGS, Mont. — Chinese authorities have dropped charges against an American college student who was arrested and detained in the Asian nation a week ago after reportedly injuring a taxi driver who was roughing up his mother in a fare dispute, a U.S. lawmaker said Sunday. Guthrie McLean, a University of Montana senior, was released […]

  • $53M to go to U.S. national park maintenance, infrastructure

    by Associated Press on Jul 23, 17:02

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced more than $50 million for maintenance and infrastructure work at national parks. Zinke made the announcement Saturday at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. With him was Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The funding would go to 42 parks in 29 states. The Interior Department says in a release […]

  • Politics

    Initiative to regulate bathrooms likely to appear on ballot

    by Associated Press on Jul 23, 16:45

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A new rule on sex, gender, and bathrooms looks likely to go before Anchorage voters next spring. Alaska Public Media reports a release by the Alaska Family Action Council states supporters submitted nearly 8,500 signatures Thursday to the municipal Clerk’s Office, backing a measure that seeks to regulate bathrooms, locker rooms […]

  • Politics

    Trump tweets frustration with Republicans

    by Associated Press on Jul 23, 16:36

    WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump is expressing his frustration with Republicans, saying they “do very little to protect their President.” In a tweet Sunday, Trump says this happens even with “some that were carried over the line on my back.” The president isn’t making clear exactly why he’s upset. But his tweet comes as […]

  • Dramatic video shows Starbucks customer fighting off armed robber

    by CBS News on Jul 23, 16:26

    FRESNO, Calif. — Police in Fresno, California, have released dramatic surveillance footage showing a customer stepping in to prevent an armed robbery at a Starbucks. Authorities said the video shows a hero taking down a man who will soon face many felony charges, CBS affiliate KGPE-TV in Fresno reports. Cregg Jerri, 58, was enjoying his […]

  • Parents arrested for giving newborn daughter meth, heroin, morphine, police say

    by CBS News on Jul 23, 16:03

    SPANISH FORK, Utah — Police said a mother and father were arrested after they gave their newborn daughter drugs on the day she was born, CBS affiliate KUTV in Salt Lake City reports. Colby Glen Wilde, 29, and 26-year-old Lacey Dawn Christenson face drug distribution and child endangerment charges, authorities said. “They administered the drug […]

  • Lifestyle

    John Heard, ‘Home Alone’ actor, dies at 71

    by CBS News on Jul 23, 12:01

    John Heard, the actor best known for his roles in “Home Alone” and “The Sopranos,” has died, the Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner confirmed to CBS News. He was 71. Early reports from TMZ said Heard was found dead in his hotel room in Palo Alto, California. Earlier this week, representatives for Heard told TMZ the […]