Red (Roy) Piercy Cabin

Building Location: 

Shipyards, 300 M Upstream from Kishwoot Island

Whitehorse, YT

Location Context: 

This area of the waterfront, located directly north of the former shipyards contains many buildings, some of historic merit, others simply the homes of those who still choose to live on the waterfront. Refer to the Eldon HouseMiller House; Sewell House; and the Pioneer Hotel


One-storey Log Cabin

Architectural History: 

It is a one room log structure with a low sloped gable roof. The building rests on an unstable wood sill foundation. 

A frame porch addition to east façade is clad in corrugated steel and fibreglass.

Cultural History: 

This one room log cabin, typical of small dwellings of its period, is said to have been built by a shipyards employee some time between 1902 and 1907. It was used as a seasonal residence. Red Piercy took up residence there in the 1950’s. Piercy was a Canadian Armed Forces pilot during World War II and was one of only six Canadians decorated for flying “the Hump.” This refers to the supply route which stretched from India to China passing over Burma (which was occupied by the Japanese during the war). After his death the cabin was bequeathed to the Whitehorse branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. John Hatch purchased the cabin from the Legion in 1991. 

The Shipyards community began as an area occupied by tents and small structures belonging to shipyard carpenters, employees and newcomers to Whitehorse. The nature of employment with BYN Co. in the shipyards and on the boats dictated a seasonal lifestyle. Living near their sources of employment, on land they weren’t required to purchase, was ideal for many shipyard residents. Many occupied the area in the summer months when work was available, and departed in the autumn to find work elsewhere. Living on BYN Co. land was tolerated because these individuals were essential to the operation and well being of the company. First Nations people also resided in the area, while employed by White Pass in the summer, or while in town to load up on supplies and visit friends. 

After incorporation as a city, Whitehorse administrators began to look unfavourably on the waterfront area and its squatters. This was a time when Whitehorse was experiencing a severe housing shortage, and the waterfront did provide some alternative to the privately owned, and unavailable, housing in town. 

By the mid 1950’s there were over 700 people living in the Moccasin Flats area, many of First Nations ancestry. 

In 1957, the government amended the Territorial Lands Act, thus allowing for squatter removal from all waterfront and escarpment areas. This proved a difficult and inappropriate undertaking. In the1960’s alternative sites were offered to the squatters, along with the costs of relocating their dwellings to these leased or private lots. The sites were located in Porter Creek, Crestview, Lot 19 (near the clay banks at the south end of town) and along the Alaska Highway. Most often, they were not viable locations for those squatters who could not afford to lease or purchase a lot. The option of Lot 19 failed to materialize altogether when Whitehorse voters defeated its proposal in 1961/62 plebiscites. 

Many squatters opted for these sites, or were removed from the area. The city created a “Transient Area” in the Marwell Industrial area as a “temporary” location for squatters’ buildings which were below standards for relocation in the proposed subdivisions, but many houses remained here well into the 1970’s. 

In 1987, a squatter policy was enacted, which outlined the rights of waterfront residents to pursue ownership of the land on which their dwellings were located. Squatters were offered life-long leases, pending the settlement of land claims negotiations. 

Today the Shipyards and its adjacent areas are the the last vestiges of a once large and characterful community within Whitehorse.