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This poem is often wrongly thought to be by Robert W Service. It is published here to the memory of Hugh Antoine D'Arcy, its rightful father.
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Archives > Books and Poetry > RWS Information > The Robert Service Cabin

The Robert Service Cabin

Published by Webmaster on 07/21/2003 (12700 reads)
The Robert Service Cabin by Les McLaughlin ( additional photos by John Lambert )

There is a little cabin on Eighth Avenue in Dawson City that was once home to the world's most famous Yukoner. Though he never owned it, the cabin was his pride and joy and inspired some of his most famous poems and a book that became a Hollywood motion picture. 

The two room cabin, set among the willows and the alders on the hill side overlooking Dawson. was built in 1897. The first owner was Mrs. Matilda Day. Later it was sold to Mrs. Edna Clarke, who rented the cabin to Robert Service in November of 1909. Service had written his most famous poems while working as a bank clerk in Whitehorse. When the Bank of Commerce transferred him to Dawson City in the spring of 1908, he quickly discovered that his poems were earning more money than the bank was paying him. He quit the bank in 1909, rented the cabin and began his career as a full time author. 

Here he wrote his third volume of poetry called Rhymes of a Rolling Stone. The collection included such gems as the Trapper's Christmas Eve, Athabaska Dick and Goodbye Little Cabin. He also wrote his first novel called "The Trail of 98." In 1924, Metro Goldwin Mayer released it as a movie with the same name starring Dolores Del Rio, Ralph Forbes and Karl Dante. Though there had been previous movies about the Gold Rush, The Trail of '98 was the first talking picture dealing with the Klondike as its theme. It was acclaimed at the time because the critics all agreed that the depiction of the characters and the plot were true to the Klondike story.

While living in his little cabin, Service was so inspired as a writer that he would often run out of paper for his little Underwood typewriter. So he would scrawl his lines on the wallpaper using a lead carpenter's pencil. Then he'd pin the stuff up, stand back and read it over to make sure it was right. 


In the cabin, 1911

Service left Dawson for the last time in June of 1912 telling everyone he was going on one of his periodic trips to meet with his publishers in Toronto and New York. He knew he would never come back and he wrote a soliloquy called Good-bye Little Cabin.  The poem included lines such as "your roof is bewhiskered, your floor is aslant .... your walls seen to sag and to swing .... I'm trying to find just your faults, but I can't .... you poor, tired heartbroken old thing." This clearly shows his deep attachment for the place.

By 1917 the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, with the owner's rather reluctant permission,  were promoting the cabin as a tourist attraction to raise money for soldier's comforts overseas. After the war the I.O.D.E furnished the cabin in a typical miner's style of the gold-rush period.

Donated to the National Historical Sites Branch of Parks of Canada by the City of Dawson, it has been restored to the period when Service lived in it. Today, the cabin sits in much the same condition as the bard of the Yukon left it, a living reminder of the inspiration the cabin on Eighth Avenue in Dawson City gave the Yukon's most famous poet.

 


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