A remarkable photograph of Kenai taken around 1919 by Leon Grove, a teacher who climbed a telegraph pole to obtain an elevated vantage point, has been chosen to hang on the historical wall display downstairs in the new Mountain Tower addition to Central Peninsula Hospital.
There’s another credit line on the photo, that of Will Thompson, who in the 1980s obtained the photo from Betty Lande of Soldotna and made copies available for anyone who wanted one.
Thompson was a professional photographer from Texas who spent his summers in the Kenai area where he was hired by Tesoro and other firms primarily to make aerial shots of their plants.
He once told me he never divulged his age to his clients. He was afraid they would think an 80-something man should not be hanging out of airplanes to do his work.
Leon Grove, who took the the old Kenai photo, taught in the American School in 1919 and 1920, along with his wife, Clara. One of their students was Ralph Petterson, who was around 9 years old at the time. Years later, when the Kenai Historical Society needed a description of the photo to put in the local history book, “Once Upon The Kenai,” Petterson was able to remember and identify the buildings in Grove’s photo.
The Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church dominates the central portion of the photograph, Petterson pointed out.
The parish house is across the street where the priest, Father Paul Shadura, and his family lived. We can see the family wash on the line, and slightly left of center in the foreground is the “banya” (steam house), which the family shared with other residents.
The small “nooshnik” (outhouse) in back of the parish house is linked with a board walk to the old Russian School on the left.
There is a chicken coop in the priest’s back yard and to the right of that, a barn for their horse. The building with a dark roof also belonged to the church.
To the right of it is what looks like a large white box. It was logs, cut and squared off and stacked temporarily so they could dry and shrink before being assembled into a log cabin across from the church. John Oskolkoff was the builder.
After several changes of ownership through the years, the cabin is now Veronica’s Coffee House.
The small square building with the cupola, top right, is the Chapel of St. Nicholas, built around 1906 to honor Father Nicholas, Kenai’s first resident priest.
He and two other church workers are buried beneath the chapel. Nearby is the Clarence March home where Petterson’s aunt lived.
On “Sunny Point,” top center, is a house built by Jack Edleman about 1895. Allan and Jettie Petersen later lived there.
The house was dismantled several years ago and its logs used to construct an office building at the site.
To the left is “Hershey’s place,” used as a pool hall, dance hall and restaurant.
This column was provided by Mary Ford with the Kenai Historical Society.
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