Located in Skagway, Alaska, Jewell Gardens is a public garden facility and glassblowing studio that serves as the only public studio of its kind in the state, providing opportunities for visitors to create their own glass art projects. Settlement in the Skagway area is recent, only dating back to the Gold Rush Stampede of 1898, as the area was not populated by indigenous Americans due to its narrow glacial terrain.
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During the Gold Rush, Henry D. Clark, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, seized the opportunity to plant the Skagway Valley and provide food for those traveling the White Pass area. Clark, along with his partner, farmed nearly 200 acres of land in the Valley, the largest farming area in the Alaska area at the time, and operated a 44-acre market garden, located on the current site of Jewell Gardens. During the early 20th century, the Skagway area became known as the “Garden City of Alaska” and the “Land of the Midnight Sun,” famous throughout the country for its prodigious output of large crops due to its long daylight hours.
The advent of World War II converted the Skagway area into a highway, railway, and fuel tank storage area, stripping it of much of its farming activity. The area fell into further decline in the mid 1990s, when a bulldozer hit a pipe along the area’s railroad tracks, causing a major oil spill in the Skagway River. Following the disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency closed Skagway’s tank farm and initiated cleanup efforts.
Around that time, Charlotte Jewell, a Pennsylvania-born gardener and artist who had moved to Alaska in the 1970s, acquired a portion of the original Clark farm in 1996, in the hopes of creating a public display garden for the city. Throughout the late 1990s, the area was dug up to clear oil contaminants and entirely replanted. Work on the gardens finished in 2001, and in 2007, a glassblowing studio was added to the facility, the only public facility of its kind in the state.
Permanent Attractions and Events
Today, Jewell Gardens is a USDA-certified organic garden, prioritizing pesticide-free cultivating practices, clean water use, soil and energy conservation, and biodiversity sustainability. The entire garden and glassblowing facility is ADA-compliant wheelchair-accessible, and all foods served on site use organic ingredients and offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options upon request.
Tours of the facility are offered as part of cruise ship packages for excursions docking at Skagway through major cruise lines or through independent tour packages departing from downtown Skagway by appointment. Visitors may also access the facility via the Alaska Marine Highway ferry and the city’s SMART shuttle service. All tour packages include guided tours of the show garden, which features heirloom plantings of Henry Clark’s original rhubarb crops, along with wildflower, shrubbery, and fruit and vegetable plantings. Glass sculptures created at the facility’s glassblowing studio are highlighted prominently throughout the garden as decorations. A miniature Garden Railway depicts a G-Scale model of the area’s White Pass and Yukon Route, winding 250 feet of track through a small-scale recreation of Skagway’s business district and terrain during the time of the Gold Rush.
Glassblowing crafting experiences are provided for visitors at the Garden City Glassworks glassblowing studio, which allows all participants to create their own blown glass work. All finished products are held at the studio for cooling and shipped to participants’ homes the following day. Several tour packages of the glassblowing studio are offered, including an Introduction to Glassblowing tour, which allows participants to view master artists at work, a Gardens and Glass Demonstration, and a nighttime Lights Out Glass Demonstration package.
Blown glass works by local and resident artisans may be purchased on site at the facility’s glassblowing studio or online through the Jewell Gardens website. Works featured at the glassblowing studio include pieces inspired by Dale Chihuly’s renowned “Gardens and Glass” series.
The Gardens’ onsite restaurant, Poppies Restaurant, serves a variety of healthy eating options, utilizing as much fresh produce grown from its gardens and by other local farms as possible in dishes. Housed inside a garden tea house facility, the restaurant offers lunch and afternoon tea packages as part of tours. Southeast Alaskan wines and local organic beers complement light fare such as quiche, soup, scones, and tea sandwiches.
Visitors may rent the Jewell Gardens facility, including its conservatory and gazebo facilities, for weddings, commitment ceremonies, and other special events. Onsite catering by the Gardens’ restaurant and witnesses for small weddings can be provided upon request. Transportation to and from the Gardens from downtown Skagway may also be provided.
PO Box 535, Skagway, Alaska 99840, Phone: 907-983-2111