The Wildcat Cafe was built in Yellowknife NWT in 1937 by Willie Wylie and Smokey Stout. It was one of the first eating establishment in the newly founded mining town and quickly became an integral part of the growing community. It was later bought by Carl and Dorothy Jensen and then Mah Gow, who ran it until 1949 when its doors closed, probably because of a mass migration of residents “up the hill” to New Town. It was used as a storage house until the mid 1970’s when plans to tear it down were brought up by the Town Council.
In 1976, a group of Yellowknife residents quickly formed the Old Stope Association, a loosely knit organization mainly dedicated to saving the Wildcat. After 2 long years of volunteer efforts, the Wildcat re-opened for business in the summer of 1979.
Although the building was fundamentally the same, the staff and general ambience of the new Wildcat night have raised a few eyebrows with Wiley, Stout et al, had they been around to re-visit. Long hair, strange music and a very relaxed attitude to service dominated the first few summers. Gradually, the Old Stope Association developed the Cafe into a more organized and increasingly popular summer eatery.
The Wildcat has been recognized across Canada as a great place to eat and meet northerners. The Old Stope returned control of the Wildcat back to the City of Yellowknife in 1992, when it was designated an official Heritage Site, and since then several different management teams have run the cafe. In 2011, the City decided that it was time to completely renovate the log building, which had settled far into the ground and was leaning precariously in several directions at once. Rick Muyres of Norman Wells, the premier log buildier in the NWT, was hired to dismantle and then rebuild the Wildcat over the summer. With the help of Yellowknifers Andrew Spauling and Anthony Foliot, the building has now been completely taken apart, the pieces catalogued and numbered and made ready for reassembly.
The following photos show the painstaking dis-assembly process, which started on May 11. By June 4, the building was gone. Stay tuned to see how it all goes back together.