The Ester Gold Camp, a historic landmark as well as an excellent place to spend a night out if you are in the Fairbanks area during the summer, announced that it will not open for the 2008 summer season due to planned renovations.
“The camp is old and needs a lot of restoration. There is not enough good weather during the off season in Fairbanks to do everything that needs to be done,” owner Rick Winther said.
Ester Gold Camp’s owners also say they will rethink their business model.
The camp has been unable to tap into the main tourist trade in Fairbanks. The attraction draws about 110 people per day, and that is not enough revenue to operate a property the size of Ester Gold Camp.
The Ester Gold Camp, which is typically open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, offers live nightly shows at the Malemute Saloon, an all-you-can-eat restaurant, hotel, several shops, and the Photosymphony, a photographic presentation of the aurora borealis.
Locals in Ester are disappointed to hear that the gold camp will not be reopening next summer. The gold camp provides one more place for them to get a bite to eat and wet their whistle.
“We have a great group of regulars, they are disappointed that we will not be open next year, but are really happy we are doing renovations,” said Beth Winther, who runs the Ester Gold Camp.
Ester has rich mining historyMiners first discovered gold in Ester Creek in 1903. By 1907, Ester City had a population of around 200 people, with a thriving mining industry. In 1929 the Fairbanks Exploration Company began mining on Ester Creek and in 1933 built a mess hall for their camp in Ester. That camp later became the Ester Gold Camp.
In 1958 Fairbanks Exploration, then known as the F. E. Mining Company, sold the property to a local entrepreneur, Don Pearson.
Pearson converted the mining camp into a tourist attraction offering a buffet-style meal and a one-man show performed by Don himself.
Rick Winther bought the camp in the 1980s. Due to its importance in Alaska’s rich mining history, the camp was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The designation helps preserve historic landmarks and provides tax incentives for renovation projects on historic buildings.
When asked about plans for the camp, the Winthers say they are focused on renovating the buildings for starters. Check back to find out what else they have in store for the Ester Gold Camp, they added.