First Nations tourist draw has piece of tawdry Trump history
Carcross Tagish camp is in B.C. town where mogul’s grandpa ran brothel
A First Nations band is planning to start luring tourists this summer to the northern B.C. ghost town where Donald Trump’s pioneering grandfather once ran a brothel.
The Carcross Tagish First Nation, whose territory straddles the B.C.-Yukon border, is building a luxury wilderness camp south of that border, in the town of Bennett, which was briefly a hub for prospectors and others seeking their gold-rush fortunes, including one Frederick Trump, who established the Arctic Hotel there in 1899.
The Arctic Hotel was open 24 hours a day and boasted “private boxes” for ladies, which included a bed and a gold scale so customers could pay in nuggets, according to a multi-generational biography of the Trumps by U.S. author and journalist Gwenda Blair.
“The bulk of the (hotel’s) cash flow came from the sale of liquor and sex,” Blair wrote in her book The Trumps: Three Generations That Built An Empire.
The elder Trump, who left his native Germany for North America as a teen, later moved his operation from Bennett to Whitehorse. He left the North altogether within three years, having amassed the seed money he would later use to plant the Trump fortune in the U.S.
Frederick Trump’s old two-storey Arctic Hotel no longer stands in Bennett, and the town has cleaned up since Trump and the prospectors left. But guides will tell guests the stories of those days and other bits of local history, said Jeff Barrett, chief executive officer of the Carcross Tagish Development Corporation.
Trump’s old hotel “is gone, nothing there,” Barrett said Monday. “There’s only one building that you’d notice if you were just walking through, just the church.”
The First Nation is building the “wilderness lodge experience” in partnership with Parks Canada, he said. “A cookhouse and some higher-end luxury tents.”
The cookhouse will feature a replica of the Arctic Hotel’s false front, though they’re still debating whether to use the old name.
The area’s grounds have been examined and mapped by archeologists, he added, so they know exactly where the hotel once stood.
The wilderness camp has been in the works for about two years, and it’s certainly not meant to be a Trump-brothel theme park. But Barrett said they don’t mind the attention they’ve drawn for their ancestral connection to the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
“The former CEO here was using that (connection) to try and garner some attention,” Barrett said. “I think he actually sent out a letter to Trump about it, asking if he was interested. We never got anything back from him. But Parks Canada is a bit nervous about associating, I think, with Trump.”
“I think it would be kind of fun to play with it,” he said of the Arctic Hotel name being considered for the cookhouse.
“It’s a neat history, showing how, where they all started. You can’t make that up — very rich stories in the gold rush years, for sure.”
The camp’s four tents are replicas of the canvas tents used by prospectors and miners in the gold rush days, and furnished with eclectic antique beds and carpets. Operator Nature Tours of Yukon is offering three-night, four-day visits for $1,685 per person.
Bennett wasn’t easy to reach back in the gold rush days — pack animals and people died frequently on the pass from Skagway, Alaska — and it’s still hard to get there.
The narrow-gauge White Pass Railway runs in the warm months from Skagway to Carcross and on to Whitehorse, he said. “Seaplanes go in as well. People can also hike the Chilkoot Trail and come in three, four nights from the Skagway side.”
Carcross Tagish guides and cooks will be hosting guests and telling stories, amid a spectacularly rugged mountain setting.
“There’s quite a bit of hiking, there’s some great fishing, there’s good canoeing and kayaking,” Barrett said. “(The lake) kind of feels like a fiord, with mountains rising on either side.”
In other Trump-related B.C. news, a Mexican-Canadian construction worker this weekend hung a Mexican flag atop Vancouver’s under-construction Trump Tower, a hotel and condominium project being built by the Holborn Group. The flag, which was taken down Sunday, drew international attention, with photographs shared widely through social media.
Calls to the Holborn Group regarding Trump Tower were not returned. An email to the media department at Donald Trump’s campaign was also not returned.
Parks Canada is a bit nervous about associating, I think, with Trump.