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
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
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
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
Cabin with round saddle notch corners
A typical Alaskan food cache
Above and below: Interiors were Spartan but
This was the old Slikok Valley School, built in 1958. It was the last of the Territorial log
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.
THE HOMESTEAD MUSEUM
At the end of our tour at the Homestead we visited Damon Hall, a
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
Next three entries: further exploration of the Kasilof-Soldotna-Kenai
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil