Perhaps you've heard of Houston's kinda-famous beer can house, the structure that eschewed traditional aluminum siding for the PBR-containing variety. Fifty thousand cans' worth. And that’s cool and all, but it was built in Houston, aka the fourth-biggest city in America. And you can find 50,000 beer cans in Houston sitting by dumpsters on a Tuesday.
Now try that in a remote town in the Yukon, 35 miles from the nearest grocery store, and almost 300 miles from the nearest city. And make the build with glass. In sub-freezing temperatures. Sounds impossible, right? Well, not if you're Geordie Dobson, who sided his house in the tiny mining town of Keno City completely with beer bottles.
Where do you get an idea like this?
Keno "City" is a little misleading of a name. The town (also probably a little misleading) has a population of 25, which drops to 13 in the winter. It's an active silver-mining community that has drawn miners since the 19th century.
When Dobson arrived there in late 1952 he purchased the Keno City Hotel, an eight-room boarding house that held one of the city’s two bars. Since widespread recycling hadn’t yet hit the outer reaches of the Yukon, Dobson was stuck with all the empties that thirsty miners went through at his bar. And if you know anything about miners, that means there were more than a few. His choice was to either find something to do with them, or drive them all the way to Whitehorse, about six hours away.
Looking around town, Dobson saw some of the old miners using beer bottles instead of window panes in their houses and figured they must be good for insulation. So he started layering the little "stubby" bottles (think Red Stripe) into the mortar of his house. Four years and 32,000 bottles later, it was completely covered.
Where it stands today, it may not stand forever
Though Dobson's insulation theory worked, and this two-bedroom bungalow (complete with water heater!) was said to be the warmest in Keno City, no one has occupied the house since Dobson left town. The Keno City Hotel is under new ownership, and its proprietors have opted to live elsewhere.
Unfortunately the house has started to sink, one regular told me at the Keno City Hotel bar. (He preferred not to be identified; probably why he lives in a town of 25 people in the Yukon.)
"All those bottles are heavy, ya know," he said. "And that permafrost can't hold it. So if you look, the foundation's starting to slip into the ground."
Sure enough, it is. If you happen to find yourself anywhere near the Yukon, you should probably check this out. Much like a lot of the other arctic features of this region, it might not be around forever.
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