Donald Trump's ancestral brothel gets a new lease on life - Macleans.ca
 

Donald Trump’s ancestral brothel gets a new lease on life

There wasn’t much left of the flesh-pot that Friedrich Trump built on the road to the Klondike. Parks Canada and a Yukon First Nation are changing that.


 
The Arctic Hotel, a restaurant and hotel owned by Friederich Trump in Bennett, B.C. in 1898, is being reconstructed by Parks Canada in collaboration with the Carcross Tagish First Nation.

The Arctic Restaurant and Hotel, owned by Friedrich Trump in Bennett, B.C. in 1899, is being reconstructed by Parks Canada in collaboration with the Carcross Tagish First Nation (Meagan Campbell)

The year was 1897, and the region of Bennett, B.C. was roamed by the Tlingit people. They were organized into Crow and Wolf clans, hunted game as small as squirrels and were so attuned to the land that they passed on a story of a girl who nurtured a woodworm—breastfed the worm, even—and mourned over its death for one year until her brothers held a ceremony to celebrate its life. It was on this Tlingit land, amid gurgling rapids and porcupine droppings, that the Trump empire began.

“I think he’s lost touch with his roots,” says Jennifer Ingram, a tourist from Delaware visiting Bennett in June. After prospectors found gold, “B City” became the hub of the Klondike Gold Rush, prompting 100,000 Americans and Canadians to attempt a trek so tough that about 60 per cent turned back or died. Friedrich Trump, Donald’s great-grandfather, joined the bandwagon—with no wagon, but rather hired Indigenous locals to carry much of his load—and established the Arctic Restaurant and Hotel, which also served as a brothel, and which Parks Canada and the Carcross Tagish First Nation are now restoring to be part of an interpretive tour. The current U.S. president may own resorts on four continents, but his ancestral fortune began with a two-storey outfit selling swan meat and sex in Canada.

“Everybody’s gotta start somewhere,” says Donna Laperle, a tourist from California. The Tlingit had little use for gold—it’s too malleable to make tools—but the metal promised money for one German man with drive. Trump had moved from Kallstadt, Germany in 1885 and started cutting hair in Manhattan, but he was no wealthy barber, and when he heard buzz about Bennett, he came, he saw, and he capitalized.

A train conductor and brakeman prepare for departure on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad in Bennett, B.C.

A train conductor and brakeman prepare for departure on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad in Bennett (Meagan Campbell)

Trump’s trunks contained, among other necessities, more than his weight in bacon, and he would’ve needed to hire Tlingit pack carriers, who translated “newcomers” as “cheechakos.” The Arctic Hotel offered an omnivorous menu of moose, goose, caribou and cranberries, but most of the profit for Trump and his business partner came from alcohol and prostitution.

“Ladies of the night” often hiked the trail in skirts, and they stayed at the Arctic Hotel to entertain gold diggers, using a scale to weigh gold powder for payment. “I would not advise respectable women to go there to sleep,” wrote a reporter for the Yukon Sun in April 1900, “as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex.”

In Tlingit culture, girls were considered critical to a community’s spiritual good fortune. At puberty, girls were secluded to a tent for two months to two years so their menstruation wouldn’t bring bad hunting luck to their people, and so they could learn skills like sewing, according to My Old People Say, an iconic work by Catharine McClellan, who spent three decades working with and gathering stories from Yukon elders (girls sometimes snuck out of the “puberty camps” to dance or play with other children, but they would be forgiven). Powerful white women also came to Bennett to find adventure, farm cattle and run a competing hotel that was fancier than Trump’s.

Six weeks after opening his establishment, Trump was already scoping out his next location: in Whitehorse. Spotting another boomtown, he and helpers would lift his hotel onto a barge and floated it by river to the future capital city. Before gold yields dropped, Trump returned to Germany to find a wife, Elizabeth Christ, and moved back to New York to have three children and buy real estate on the west coast. Trump’s exploits in Bennett were just a footnote in the Gold Rush, and to the Tlingit people, the entire rush was merely, as Parks Canada historian David Neufeld puts it, “a wild weekend party that came and, thankfully, left.”

Cruise ships now bring cheechakos to Bennett from Japan, Sweden and beyond, most of them not expecting to find a Trump franchise. “Believe me, we didn’t come to see that,” says Gary Graff, a visitor from Kentucky. “We’re grateful that Canadians even let us into the country, given the man in the executive mansion.” The region also attracts cross-country skiers to the Buckwheat Ski Classic, an annual race that began with the explicit purpose of luring beautiful women in the winter.

Bennett’s national historic site protects plants as exotic as the Northern Bastard Toadflax, and the town has only one resident, a Tlingit woman who maintains her family’s trap line. She lives up the shore from the Arctic Hotel reconstruction project, where artifacts still lie on the lawns—a shriveled mattress spring; a women’s salmon-coloured shoe.


 

Donald Trump’s ancestral brothel gets a new lease on life

  1. Things must be getting harder to malign Trump with when McLean’s wastes space on this kind of nonsense.

    • How does anything a remote ancestor did reflect on Donald Trump? This is a special interest story that might just increase tourism to the area.

      • I have some swamp land for you Gage!

  2. Trump should be offering an exceptional experience for select whirled leaders and the ‘wilder’ folk among the members of The Key Largo – an over-nighter in Bennett. With Tony Bennett, the finest whines, his custom cut steaks, the best chocolate cake he’s ever tasted and photo and video opportunities some imported Russian micturators.

    There’ still big bux to be made in Bennett.

  3. Trump should be making a deal to offer an exceptional experience for select whirled leaders and the ‘wilder’ folk among the members of The Key Largo – an over-nighter in Bennett. With Tony Bennett, the finest whines, his custom cut steaks, the best chocolate cake he’s ever tasted and photo and video opportunities some imported Russian micturators.

    There could still be big bux to be made in Bennett.

  4. I’m still waiting for some news organization to reveal the truth of Fred Trump’s history.  In the book, “The Trumps, Three Generations of Trumps”, it appears the only compelling evidence is the Sinclair diaries as all other claims are baseless, all conjecture, SAD!

    The author admits that she does not know if he served anything more than tea in Seattle or Monte Cristo yet her conclusion that he ran brothels is now  “history”.

    Interesting points on the book:
    She admits she does not know what pass he took to the Yukon but then describes his despicable activities at one particular pass.  A Pass under the dutiful watch of Sam Shepard.  Sam Shepard who relocated from Dead Horse Pass to Bennet at the time time Trump did.

    Did Canada’s greatest law enforcement officer miss Trump selling horse flesh and ignore him moving to the  center of town in Bennet, BC  without so much as a mention of his illegitimate activities.
    If I took the liberties that the author of Fred’s history did, I would conjecture that Sam Shepard was being bribed by Trump.  I doubt it.  Filling in the blanks of history do not make it true.

    Now the compelling evidence against Fred is an anonymous letter written to the local newspaper as follows: “For single men the Arctic has the best restaurant,” he wrote, “but I would not advise respectable women to go there to sleep as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex.”

    In the real world of today we know not to take an anonymous letter to an editor attacking a business at face value.  Should the value of an anonymous letter increase in “truthiness” simply because it was written over a hundred years ago?

    The letter in question would not stand up to scrutiny today.  It appears, unknown or unmentioned by the author, that there were two Arctic restaurants in Bennet BC.  When making assumptions as to which restaurant they were talking about we must remember at the time of the article that the Trump Restaurant was in the process of relocating to Whitehorse.  Why degrade a departing business and warn clients of a business no longer in operation?

    It might be more plausible that Fred Trump dropped a poison pill on the competing business which was poaching on the fame of The Arctic Restaurant’s name.

    Who knows, Not the author of the book.  Great story, no proof. She missed everything.  I am especially insulted by her reference to the Inuit language is that of the natives.  The Inuit live almost a thousand miles to the north.

    It goes on.  We don’t know what happened.  Though the author grabs at straws and interprets them to fit her forgone conclusion. The best example of this is her interpretation of the newspaper ads offering private booths for ladies.  In a town with 20 men to one woman, I suspect a woman being able to eat with her company in privacy would be attractive and a business opportunity.
    If she had considered the content of the ads she should have suggested that the offer to sell “Oysters of Any Style” is an ad for his brothel.  The Trump larder never had any record of oysters. It was his main dish.

    Scott Etches
    New Owner The Arctic Restaurant
    Whitehorse, Yukon.

    • Fake news starts with Faked history.

    • Who is this Sam Shepherd you refer to? I think you mean Sam Steele, NWMP

      • At least one thing now has been peer reviewed in regards to the Arctic Restaurant. Todays breakfast, the egg on my face.

  5. Why is Canadian Tax dollars being wasted on this type of historical trash. Shows again how the silly bureaucrats in Ottawa are sold the US interests. They do not spend a dime on anything CDN but ass lick Trumpo.