Treadwell Mine Historic Trail Walking Tour

This was once the site of the most productive gold mines in the United States—$70 million in gold was removed by 2,000 workers. Of the 144 structures that stood in Treadwell in 1910, only a few foundations still exist, and the New Office Building is the only remaining structure. The trail starts from the south end of St. Ann’s Avenue in Douglas. Keep right on the trail and you’ll come to Treadwell Glory Hole, once the entrance to a network of shafts under Gastineau Channel. A waterfall drops into this hole. Return to the fork in the trail and continue down to the shore to see remains of buildings and old mining machinery. Just to the south is a pit where the mine collapsed during torrential rains in 1917. There are remnants of old docks at the shoreline.

This walking guide was put together by the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

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Walking Tour Points

At this site in 1881 Hen­ry Bor­ein, a prospec­tor, ran into a num­ber of bears in the under­brush, giv­ing the mine it’s name. This claim adjoined the rich Paris lode but turned out to be near­ly bar­ren rock. Lat­er own­ers, how­ev­er, com­bined this close prox­im­i­ty with care­ful gold salt­ing and suc­ceed­ed in sell­ing $8,000,00.00 in stock to Eng­lish investors – at the time, it was the biggest mine swin­dle in his­to­ry. A 1400 foot tun­nel was dri­ven and an…  ...more

These cylin­ders, over which there was a rub­ber belt, rolled and shook the 300 Stamp Mill’s crushed rock in a con­stant flow of water, caus­ing the waste rock to go over the top and the gold-bear­ing rock to remain at the bot­tom – a very effi­cient sys­tem. A total of 120 Frue Van­ners, arranged in four rows of 30, were housed in a 340 foot by 85 foot sin­gle sto­ry wood­en struc­ture just below the 300 stamp mill building. 

Now rot­ting and moss cov­ered, these large wood­en pul­leys were once mount­ed at the top of each rock crush­ing bat­tery of five stamps in the mills. 

In 1899 the Alas­ka Tread­well Gold Min­ing Com­pa­ny erect­ed a 300 stamp mill at this site. This is the largest num­ber of stamps ever installed under one roof, any­where in the world. After the ore from the mine tun­nels arrived in the stamp mill for crush­ing, each 1,020 pound stamp, drop­ping 8 ½ inch­es 98 times per minute, crushed six tons of ore dai­ly to fine­ness that would allow the ore to pass, with a stream of water, through a wire screen…  ...more

Bricks are all that is left of the ear­ly sul­phurette (chlo­ri­na­tion) plant that recov­ered gold from fine­ly crushed ore by heat­ing, treat­ing with chlo­rine gas then water to release the sol­u­ble gold. 

The cen­tral pow­er plant was built in 1913. The steel and con­crete struc­ture mea­sured 100 feet by 135 feet. Crude oil was burned to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty. It was the pri­ma­ry source of pow­er in the win­ter when the water sup­ply failed. 

Start­ing in 1910, elec­tric­i­ty trans­mit­ted from plants at Nugget Creek (near Menden­hall Glac­i­er) and Sheep Creek (near Thane) was con­vert­ed from 23,000 volts to 2300 volts. The elec­tric­i­ty was then dis­trib­uted through­out the sur­face and under­ground facilities. 

The large round met­al band and the occa­sion­al sheen of oil is all that remains of what was the small­er of two tanks used to store oil for the steam plant. 

Pipe posts and con­crete under the moss still remain from the court that was prob­a­bly used by mine offi­cials and their fam­i­lies. A 1914 law lim­it­ed miner’s to eight hour days, so maybe some of them had time to play tennis. 

Said to have been the most out­stand­ing man­sion in Alas­ka when built. It was destroyed in the 1926 Dou­glas fire that burned almost every wood­en build­ing in the area. 

Once was the cen­ter of town and site of 4th of July cel­e­bra­tions and many oth­er activ­i­ties. The Superintendent’s Man­sion was locat­ed in the Tread­well Plaza area. 

The edi­fice on the right in this pho­to, tak­en from the hill above, was des­tined for only a brief use­ful life span because of the dis­as­trous 1917 cave-in. The old­er com­pa­ny store, a wood struc­ture attached to the north side or to the left, in this pho­to, of the office build­ing, was destroyed by fire in the 1920s, but the cement struc­ture of the office build­ing survives. 

The con­crete struc­tures next to the office build­ing that had been in the store before it burned, were the vaults in which gold, com­pa­ny books, records, and engi­neer­ing maps were stored. The two large safe doors that cov­ered the vaults were saved and now belong to Alas­ka Elec­tric Light and Pow­er Company. 

The tall post with foun­da­tion was used to sta­bi­lize the gold bal­ance. Assay work was free to local prospec­tors. The com­pa­ny hoped that if the dis­cov­ery was sig­nif­i­cant they would think of part­ner­ing with the mine. 

At 10:57 p.m. on April 21, 1917, a hole 30 feet deep and 15 feet wide was found under the Fire Hall with water run­ning in from the hill­side. Five min­utes lat­er water from Gastineau Chan­nel began run­ning into the hole. The three mines that flood­ed had a work­ing depth of 2800 feet and some 10 mil­lion tons of ore had been removed. The mines were not actu­al­ly under the chan­nel, but caved in from the side. An esti­mat­ed three mil­lion tons of…  ...more

Nata­to­ri­um housed a large gym­na­si­um and swim­ming pool. The wife of the hoist oper­a­tor (whose name is not known) wrote the fol­low­ing account: One Fri­day (the day before the cave-in) when the ladies were enjoy­ing their day in the swim­ming tank (I’ve always been thank­ful I was not there), all of sud­den the water left the tank in one big gulp.” Then the final ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing, April 22, account by Chief Geol­o­gist Liv­ingston Wer­necke: The…  ...more

All Tread­well min­ers and their fam­i­lies were mem­bers of the Tread­well Club, which stood on piles still vis­i­ble in the sand near the cave-in. Club facil­i­ties includ­ed a 15,000 vol­ume library, read­ing room pro­vid­ing 150 lead­ing mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, audi­to­ri­um with seat­ing for 500 peo­ple, Turk­ish bath, bowl­ing alley, dark­room, bil­liard and pool room. 

These piles sup­port­ed pipes through which waste sand was pumped out into Gastineau Chan­nel after the gold had been removed. Some of the old pho­tos show milky col­ored water most of the way across Gastineau Chan­nel. We do not know the effect on sea life as there were not the envi­ron­men­tal laws that we have today. 

The memo­r­i­al is locat­ed 50 feet toward the chan­nel from the post. Mr. Fred­er­ick W. Bradley, Pres­i­dent of Alas­ka-Juneau and Tread­well Mines, was held in high regard. He came from Cal­i­for­nia to all 4th of July cel­e­bra­tions. One year he was late so they delayed the cel­e­bra­tion until he could get to Tread­well. Bradley became world famous because of his suc­cess with these low-grade, high-vol­ume, hard- rock-gold mines. 

In 1914, this small con­crete pump house was built on the 600 foot Tread­well Wharf. Two 2,700 gal­lon per minute cen­trifu­gal pumps sup­plied salt water for milling oper­a­tions and fire pro­tec­tion dur­ing the win­ter months. The pump house and sur­round­ing pil­ings are all that remain of the wharf, where sup­plies for the Tread­well mines were land­ed and from which the gold bul­lion was shipped south. Ware­hous­es, coal bunkers, and a machine shop stood…  ...more

Short­ly before World War II, scrap met­al such as this was still being sold to Japan. A Japan­ese ship was brought here and even the huge stamps from the mills were loaded aboard the ves­sel for shipment. 

The Tread­well Mill was the first big stamp mill in Alas­ka. In 1883 the Mill, locat­ed in the val­ley to the left of the hill road lead­ing to the Glo­ry Hole”, start­ed crush­ing ore bear­ing rocks with 120 stamps. The num­ber of stamps was increased to 240 and more men were employed here than in any oth­er one Alas­ka place. On the hill lead­ing up to the Glo­ry Hole, look down in the val­ley to the left to see these cement struc­tures that were once…  ...more