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Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Log Skyscrapers of Whitehorse

When the big city meets the edge of the frontier, log skyscrapers are born. 

During the postwar boom, Whitehorse was rapidly becoming the capital of the Yukon Territory. Everything about the city struggled to keep pace. As a result, buildings of slightly more epic proportions were created, the likes of which no frontier town had seen before, or likely will again. 

When a massive influx of military personnel and laborers arrived to work on three major construction projects – the Alaska Highway, the North West Staging Route airports, and the Canol Pipeline – during the post-war boom, housing was at a premium in the once sleepy town of Whitehorse.

That’s when a septuagenerian named Martin Berrigan had a magnificently outsized idea. In blending the frontier aesthetic and resourcefulness of log cabins with the urban practicalities of stacking human beings like sardines, Berrigan took a small step in solving Whitehorse’s housing crisis (while providing himself with supplemental retirement income) by constructing a pair of “log skyscrapers,” the city’s first privately-built, multiple-dwelling rental accommodation. 

Using logs that weighed 300 pounds each and stacking them 58-tall to a total height of three storeys, Berrigan made sure his skyscrapers could withstand the harshness of the wilderness while retaining the awe-inspiring, standalone power of buildings found in more traditional city skylines. While Berrigan’s creations surely succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, he passed away in 1950, just two years after completing the log skyscrapers. Over the years, the units were modernized and have since taken on a life as the proper apartment buildings they are today.

Though their creator wouldn’t live long enough to see the lasting impact he had on the city of Whitehorse, these contributions were not lost on the locals themselves; in the year 2000, city council members officially designated the buildings a Municipal Historic Site.