History of the
Malemute Saloon
& Ester Gold Camp

Historic Ester Gold Camp

Filled with Charm & Character

In 1987, Ester Gold Camp was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The presence of eleven historically significant structures prompted that designation. The assay and blacksmith shop date from the early 1900’s when Ester City was a small town serving mining claims. The rest of the buildings date from 1920 to 1960 when the camp provided living quarters and logistical support for a large dredge operation run by the Fairbanks Exploration Company.

 Reminders of Our Gold Rush Past

In the early 1900’s, the discovery of gold on Ester, Cripple, and Eva Creeks drew hundreds of prospectors to seek their fortunes. Many found them, as these streams were some of the richest in the world. With the prospectors came the need for supplies and services. The town of Ester sprang up to meet those needs, boasting numerous holes, saloons, and shops. Eventually the pack and pan gave way to partnerships with steam hoists, and those gave way to the hydraulic cannon and gold dredge.

The Fairbanks Exploration (F.E.) Company opened Ester Gold Camp to support a large scale dredge operation in 1936. A bunkhouse, dining hall, smaller bunkhouses, homes, offices, and shops were built. That operation continued until the 1950’s, when gold prices fixed at $35 an ounce spelled the end of an era. Though gold is still mined in the Ester area, the days of the dredge are gone.

Hotel, Resort & Saloon

When Fairbanks Exploration’s mining operations wound down in the late 1950’s, they sold the camp. New owners converted it into the Cripple Creek Resort, which featured buffet-style meals and lively entertainment. They opened the Malemute Saloon. Entertainment included a lively one-man show featuring Robert Service poetry. The building dated to 1906, and was a garage before being converted to the saloon . A wooden false front was added to the metal-sided building. The owners acquired the bar counter from the Royal Alexandria Hotel in Dawson City. Half of it was installed in the original saloon, and half was stored next door in the old blacksmith shop. When the saloon was lost to a fire in 1969, it was rebuilt using the other half of the bar counter.

In the 1980’s, the resort and hotel was renamed the “Ester Gold Camp”, and continued to operate until 2008.

In 2020, the renovated Malemute Saloon reopened from May through September, featuring live music, cold beverages, peanuts, and local food trucks. New owners have great plans for the future of Ester Gold Camp.

Historical Newspaper Articles
The Malemute Saloon,  Ester, Alaska
The Malemute Saloon,  Ester, Alaska
1950's Resort Menu