Miller House

Building Location: 
Whitehorse Waterfront; Moccasin Flats
Whitehorse, YT
Location Context: 

This area of the waterfront, located between Sleepy Hollow and the Shipyard community contains many buildings, some of historic merit, others simply the homes of those who still choose to live on the waterfront. Refer to the Piercy Cabin; the Sewell House; and the Pioneer Hotel

Description: 

One-storey Frame Residence

Architectural History: 

The building is a one-storey wood frame with bellcast hipped roof covered in asphalt shingles. The exterior is covered with roll asphalt siding. The foundation is a wood sill construction.

Cultural History: 

This structure was built by the U.S. Army during WWII and used as a float plane base office alongside a float plane dock and a windsock pole. After the war, the house was purchased by Sophie Miller's first husband. It and the Sewell House were at one point the only structures standing in that portion of Moccasin Flats. 

It is presently owned by Donald Miller. 

The Moccasin Flats began as an area occupied by tents and small structures belonging to shipyard carpenters and employees, and newcomers to Whitehorse. Among them were John Sewell and James Richards, better known as "Buzzsaw Jimmy", who leased a portion of this area in 1910 to operate a sawmill--a venture which lasted for a five years before running into financial difficulty. 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. 

Today the Moccasin Flats and the adjacent areas remain the last vestiges of a once large and characterful community within 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. 

After incorporation as a city in 1950, Whitehorse administrators began to look disfavourably on the waterfront area and its over 700 residents. 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. 

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 claybanks 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.