Tenakee Springs History

Tenakee Springs sits on the north shore of the 35 mile long Tenakee Inlet and has long been used by the Tlingit Indians, the name Tenakee being Tlingit in origin.  

Once known as Hoonah Hot Springs, the name was changed to Tenakee Springs when a post office was established in 1902 and confusion arose between mail destined for this town and the neighboring village of Hoonah.

At one point Tenakee was known as “Robbers Roost” stemming from bank robbers and other outlaw types reportedly hiding out here.  The most notorious of these were members of the Soapy Smith gang who were said to have settled here after Smith’s death in 1899.  

Gambling and prostitution were part of the rowdy frontier town.  There was no reliable law and order here in until 1917 when Deputy U.S. Marshall and a U.S. Commissioner began making regular visits.

Snyder Mercantile began providing service in Tenakee since 1899 when Ed Snyder rowed over from Juneau with a boat full of groceries to sell. Since its construction in 1902, the Shamrock Building has been a consistent part of the Tenakee Springs community. Moving in and out of commercial, public, and residential use, the Shamrock has and continues to play a vital role in the everyday lives of Tenakee residents and visitors alike. In its storied history the Shamrock Building has been home to a bar, jail, brothel, bakery, pool hall, territorial courthouse, U.S. Commissioners office, dance hall, movie house, ice cream parlor, library, senior center, community center, meeting hall for the bathhouse/health committee, museum, restaurant, local artist co-op, café, and according to an old sign found in the back of the building, a great place for shindigs.
The hot natural spring was an open, steaming pool just above the tide line until around 1900 when it was enclosed in a log cabin. The pool itself was enlarged at the same time. About 20 years later the Forest Service poured concrete around the tub and built a larger cabin. This building lasted until 1940 when the structures which are still in use today were erected. In the 1930’s a volunteer Bath House committee was formed to oversee and maintain the bathhouse. The committee, still serving the same purpose today, relies on donations to fund the maintenance which keeps the bath house clean, safe and opened to the public

Salmon and crab canneries operated in the inlet beginning in 1916 and ceased operations in 1974.  

Commercial fishing remains an important part of Tenakee and the livelihood of some Tenakee residents