1952 Yukon Nuggets
T.C. Richards (and the Whitehorse Inn)
It’s gone now. The three-story clapboard building on the corner of Second and Main harboured many a Yukon legend. Some were true. Some were almost true. In its day, it was the focal point of the Whitehorse business and social circuit, as was the owner, T.C. Richards.
Today, it’s hard to imagine a place like the Whitehorse Inn. In its heyday, it had everything. The owner, T.C. Richards had a lot to do with that. Thomas Cecil Richards came to the Yukon in 1915 from Vancouver. He was sent by the Burns Meat Packing plant to operate a butcher shop and slaughter house. The historic Burns building was just a few doors down from the Inn on Main Street. The slaughter house was located near the river end of Strickland Street. Hard to believe, but T.C. shipped cattle from Vancouver via the inside passage, and then on board cattle cars on the White Pass. There was never a shortage of fresh meat while T.C. Richards was running Burns.
One year, he even led a cattle drive over the winter road to Mayo and supplied the local T and D’s Store there with Burns meat products. T.C. was no stranger to the overland trail. He operated cat trains on the trail to Dawson in partnership with Deacon Phelps, a lawyer who was the first leader of the elected territorial government back in 1911. Mail and groceries were delivered to the isolated Klondike city by T.C. and his horses.
It was the Whitehorse Inn, however, where Richards conducted his many legendary business affairs - even before he owned it. It was in the snake pit, a small room just off the main floor, in a poker game in the late 40s, that the legend of T.C. Richards really took hold. The stakes were high in the game that night. So high that the owners of the Inn bet the building on a single hand. T.C. called the bet. With his winning poker hand, he became the owner of the Whitehorse Inn. Actually the situation was a little more complicated. T.C. did now own the Inn, but there were other debts to cover. His daughter, Babe, says a loan from the White Pass took care of that.
The Whitehorse Inn, controlled by Richards, had everything… a restaurant, the Blue Owl café, the Inn ballroom, the Blue Room, Yellow Cabs, the beer parlour, a laundry and of course, the snake pit where legendary characters played poker long into the night. The rooms in the Inn were not much by today’s hotel standards, but that didn’t bother T.C. He’d laugh when he said it was his job to give tourists hardships - with modern plumbing.
In his later years, T.C. was rarely seen around town without his big cigar, a white Stetson and, of course, shirt and tie. When he died in November of 1961, his 46 years of service to the growing Yukon Territory came to an end.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.