The 1896 discovery of gold near the junction of the Klondike and Yukon rivers triggered the Klondike Gold Rush and turned a native summer fish camp into the "Paris of the North". Joe Ladue staked out the town and named it after George M. Dawson, who explored the region in 1887. Ladue made his fortune by cutting and selling lumber needed to build the rapidly growing town.
In 1898, Dawson was the largest Canadian city west of Winnipeg (40,000 people) with telephone service, running water and steam heat. During 1899 the stampede for gold came to an end, and by 1902, the population was down to less than 5,000. Dawson was the seat of the Territorial Government from 1898, and it was officially incorporated as a city in 1902.
Numerous old wooden buildings throughout Dawson have been restored and others are in various stages of rehabilitation. Canada's only legalized gambling hall, bar and Can-Can show, "Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall", operates during the summer tourist season. http://www.yukonweb.com/community/dawson/