The F.E. Company was the local subsidiary of the U.S. Smelting, Refining and Mining Company.
They ran some of the massive gold dredges in the Interior many years ago.
Gold dredges dredge in artificial lakes, scooping up mineral laden gravel and sifting out the gold with the help of tons of water.
The Historic Fairbanks Exploration Company Gold Camp, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is about 23.5 miles out of town on the Old Steese Highway. It was built between 1923-25 as the original bunkhouse and dining hall for the men who worked on Chatanika's old Gold Dredge 3. The gold dredge is still there, and so are lots of mining equipment.
It has been estimated that $70 million dollars was removed by the FE Gold Co. there between 1926 and 1957. At that time, the camp was larger than Fairbanks with over 10,000 residents.
The camp facilities have been restored and both lodging and meals are available. Other activities available are aurora watching, close up gold dredge viewing, berry picking, wildlife viewing, outhouse races and the annual winter break-up Harley Ride drawing up to 200 participants in March or April.
In 2010, we received this letter from Donald W. Fisher of Vermont:
After graduating from High School in 1952, I traveled to Fairbanks for employment and was hired by the U.S. Smelting and Refining and Mining Co.
I was sent to the Chatanika Camp and started work as a common laborer. Soon I was transferred to other jobs as well as doing some work on the dredge. I also worked in the large pump house that pumped water from the field.
The hydraulic guns were used for washing the soil down to the pump house and then out of the field. At the time I worked there were approximately 30 to 40 men employed. As well as about 10 Eskimos. Our work week consisted of 10 to 12 hour days, 7 days a week and no time off for anything. As you can see by the attachments I was hired on June 20, 1952 and I was given the number of 10756. I stayed until Fall of that year and the weather was getting cold. Being 18 at the time I had to return to the States as I was of draft age and the Korean War was on.
The Pump House
The F.E. Company needed a way to move the tons of water from the Chena River in Fairbanks to where they were dredging near Cripple Creek. Their chief engineer came up with the idea of building a pump house on the bank of the Chena to house ten huge pumps and generators.
Each pump could pump 6000 gallons of water a minute. They were bolted to cement stanchions which extended 18 feet into the ground. They were run by electricity from the company's main power plant on Illinois Avenue (still standing). The pump house pumped from 1933 till the early 1960's, supplying water for stripping and thawing the overburden at the mining sites, as well as for the dredge ponds. Dredges were also loaded here (unassembled) on barges to be shipped to other areas of Alaska.
The pump house was reincarnated as the Pump House Restaurant and Saloon in 1977-78. The exterior and much of the interior was restored close to its original, complete with some of the equipment left in place inside the building. In 1986 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in America and received the designation of National Historic District.