Soldotna emerged during the mid-20th century as a classic western highway town. Whereas most other towns on the Kenai Peninsula got their start as fishing, mining or railroad towns, Soldotna is where it is because of the intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways and the Kenai River bridge.
This 1965 air photo looks north along the Sterling Highway and shows the beginning of strip development characteristic of highway towns. In the lower left is the first truss bridge that was being replaced by the current bridge. At the bottom of the picture are grassy flats that are characteristic of inner meanders of the Kenai River. There is only one of these grass flats left, the rest have been dredged and developed over the years. Homesteaders cut hay from this particular grass flats until it was graveled over.
Above the grass flats is the Billeadeau trailer park and dry cleaners. This area currently is being cleaned of contaminated soil from dry cleaner waste. On the other side of the Sterling Highway is the Ace of Clubs, now the Maverick Bar, and the Bear Den Bar, now BJ's Bar. Reger's Garage was across the street. The Reger home is on the far left. Binkley air strip was the first runway where Wilson Lane is today. Vera's Variety and Wilson's store occupied the area where the Soldotna police and fire stations are now. The bend in the Sterling Highway is where Safeway is. In the upper left is Soldotna Elementary School.
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