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"MUST-SEE IN SOLDOTNA: Besides the fishing?   
Visit Soldotna's Homestead Museum, located on Centennial Park Road off  
Kalifornsky Beach Road. The museum depicts life for Soldotna's first homesteaders,
who arrived in 1947. Check out the original homesteaders' cabins, as well as 
wildlife displays and Alaska Native artifacts."
~ from the Explore the Kenai Peninsula 2012 Recreation & Travel Guide
published by the Peninsula Clarion

This is another free activity to do in Soldotna if you're interested in Alaska's history.

Several original log buildings from the 1940s-60s were moved to this setting at Centennial Park after the city of Soldotna grew – there are at least three homesteaders' cabins, an old schoolhouse, the original town visitor center, several boats, and a larger building that houses attractive wildlife, cultural, and geological artifacts.

 Above and below:  This log building used to house the original Chamber of Commerce tourist center.

When we arrived we signed a guest log and began looking at the exhibits in the visitor center.

One of the two knowledgeable Historical Society volunteers who was on hand explained how the area was homesteaded in 1947 and then she gave us an extensive tour of the buildings on the grounds.

Veterans from WWII were given first options on parcels of land in 40-acre lots, up to 160 acres each. They received the land free. All they had to do was pay a $10 fee for their piece of land, put up a cabin, and live in it for a year. They didn’t have to plant crops or do anything else.

After the veterans had the first pick of land, other settlers were given the same amounts of land but had to live there and sustain themselves for at least three years – more like what homesteaders had to do in Alaska's Mat-Su Valley and the Lower 48 states.

This plat shows who originally owned which parcels of land.

Some of the original homesteaders are still alive and still live there, as do descendents of others.

Here are photos of some of the original homesteaders' cabins and other buildings that have been moved to this location, complete with typical furnishings of the era. Signs explain who lived in them and include some construction details.

Cabin with plank corner post construction

Cabin with round saddle notch corners

A typical Alaskan food cache


Above and below:  Interiors were Spartan but serviceable.

This was the old Slikok Valley School, built in 1958. It was the last of the Territorial log school buildings:

WHAT IF . . .

I'm fascinated with this whole homesteading concept. I think I was born about 25 years too late because I might have been drawn to Alaska in my 20s when I was into the whole Mother Earth movement and was itching to explore the country. 

I've also wished more than once already since our arrival in Alaska that my parents had gotten in on this homesteading thing somewhere in Alaska before I was born in 1949. Three months after my birth they made a radical change from urban living to an 80-acre farm in the country with a ramshackle house on it -- no running water and not that much more sophisticated than these cabins, actually!

Although my dad still commuted daily to the city for his job, he was a "gentleman farmer" in his free time. My mother and two older siblings did a lot of farm work (crops and critters), pretty much roughing it for the next ten years. It was heaven for a Tomboy like me because I was too young to do much of the hard work. It wouldn't have been drastically different for my family in Alaska, especially in the Mat-Su Valley near Anchorage, except for more harsh winter weather. Soldotna was farther from an urban area and would have been more challenging at that time.


At the end of our tour at the Homestead we visited Damon Hall, a handsome log structure built for the Alaska Centennial.

We enjoyed looking at the collections housed inside. I wandered around taking pictures as the volunteer continued to explain to Jim the significance of various artifacts:






Two example of "concretions," which were formed in the bottom of lake beds about
18,000 years ago when fine sediment was firmly cemented by calcium carbonate. 
Many of the shapes carved by wind and water look like animals or humans.


L to R: a bone dipper made from a whale's vertebra, other whale bones
 and a scrimshaw cribbage board, and a cottonwood burl bowl.


There is a lot more inside that museum. Go see it for yourself!

Next we drove on the Spur Highway to the historic town of Kenai, about ten miles north of Soldotna. Since we plan to go back there tomorrow I'll wait and write a separate entry about what we saw and did on both days.

After we got back from our day trip we ate a home-cooked supper and relaxed in the camper. We’ve been enjoying the “360 North” PBS station when we can get it at various places in Alaska. There are some excellent wildlife and park shows that have been produced the last 20 years.

It was too wet to ride our bikes anywhere so we just took Cody for a walk around the campground after supper. We looked but didn't see the resident moose family today.

Next three entriesfurther exploration of the Kasilof-Soldotna-Kenai area

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil