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Family hopes to breathe new life into Snug Harbor plant

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

For the Porter family, the cannery at Snug Harbor across Cook Inlet from Ninilchik on Chisik Island was such a large part of their lives that rather than see it disintegrate into ruins, they decided to buy it and turn it into a hub of activity once again.

The facility dates to about 1917 when it was built as a clam and salmon packing facility. The clamming operation fell by the wayside, and salmon canning became the facility's purpose as ownership of the site changed hands over the years.

In 1921, the Fribrock family bought the site, which had been renamed Snug Harbor Packing Company. It was in this time period that the Porters began their long association with the site.

Willie Porter of Nikiski fished for the cannery for about 30 years, starting when he was a kid with his father, Morris, also of Nikiski.

"We fished for the Fribrocks since I was a little boy forever, it seems like," Willie said.

"It was definitely family oriented, not like today. They kind of took care of you, they always made sure all the fish were in. It was the same guys that came back every year. It was like belonging to a summer family."

The canning line shut down in 1971, but the site still was used for receiving and other operations. In 1980, the Fribrocks sold the cannery to Columbia Ward's Cove. Willie continued to fish for Ward's Cove until the site was completely closed in the 1990s.

The facility slowly has been rotting and slipping further into disrepair since then.

The continuing deterioration was something the Porters couldn't bear.

"We couldn't stand to let it go," said Jennie Porter, Willie's wife.

When Ward's Cove put the site up for sale, the Porter family siblings, spouses and children decided to pool their efforts to bring the site back to life again and bought it in December 2002.

"It's just a wonderful place," Willie said. "... It's part of my history. Every summer I was there from the time I was a little boy. Everybody that spent time there had an attachment to it."

The family plans to turn the site into Snug Harbor Past Tymes, a seasonal remote lodge offering several recreational activities, including bear viewing, bird watching, fishing, clamming, sea kayaking, historic tours and art.

"It has the best of everything," Jennie said. "And it sits between two volcanoes. It's beautiful."

The newly dubbed Snug Harbor Past Tymes is on 19 acres of land sloping down to more than 10 acres of tidelands at the south end of Chisik Island in Tuxedni Bay. The site has about 19 buildings of various ages and states of repair. The family plans to do all renovation work themselves a little at a time. They are starting with the cannery's office and owner's house. After that, they will work on a bunkhouse that sleeps about 40. Jennie said they hope to be open to lodgers on a limited scale in about three or four years.

Though they will be upgrading plumbing and electrical systems as well as making some structural repairs, Jennie said they plan to do as little cosmetic and renovation work as possible. They were attracted to the site by its unique history and family memories, and they want, above all, to preserve that for themselves and others.

"It's camp style and that's the way we want to keep it, just as unique as it is," she said. "We just want to share it share the history and uniqueness with folks. ... We want to try to keep the same atmosphere as when it was a camp."

The Porters are in the process of getting the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They plan to make history a big attraction of the lodge operation with tours through the canning facility and various displays of the original equipment used at the cannery, much of which still is intact and comes complete with manuals and blueprints.

"The canning line is still there, and it's like they just stopped it, in limbo," Jennie said. "And there's a lot of really neat things there. It's in remarkable condition. They kept very good care of the place."

The Porters plan to do the same.

"We bought it out of love," Jennie said. "It's just such a unique place."

Family hopes to breathe new life into Snug Harbor plant

By JENNY NEYMAN

Peninsula Clarion

For the Porter family, the cannery at Snug Harbor across Cook Inlet from Ninilchik on Chisik Island was such a large part of their lives that rather than see it disintegrate into ruins, they decided to buy it and turn it into a hub of activity once again.

The facility dates to about 1917 when it was built as a clam and salmon packing facility. The clamming operation fell by the wayside, and salmon canning became the facility's purpose as ownership of the site changed hands over the years.

In 1921, the Fribrock family bought the site, which had been renamed Snug Harbor Packing Company. It was in this time period that the Porters began their long association with the site.

Willie Porter of Nikiski fished for the cannery for about 30 years, starting when he was a kid with his father, Morris, also of Nikiski.

"We fished for the Fribrocks since I was a little boy forever, it seems like," Willie said.

"It was definitely family oriented, not like today. They kind of took care of you, they always made sure all the fish were in. It was the same guys that came back every year. It was like belonging to a summer family."

The canning line shut down in 1971, but the site still was used for receiving and other operations. In 1980, the Fribrocks sold the cannery to Columbia Ward's Cove. Willie continued to fish for Ward's Cove until the site was completely closed in the 1990s.

The facility slowly has been rotting and slipping further into disrepair since then.

The continuing deterioration was something the Porters couldn't bear.

"We couldn't stand to let it go," said Jennie Porter, Willie's wife.

When Ward's Cove put the site up for sale, the Porter family siblings, spouses and children decided to pool their efforts to bring the site back to life again and bought it in December 2002.

"It's just a wonderful place," Willie said. "... It's part of my history. Every summer I was there from the time I was a little boy. Everybody that spent time there had an attachment to it."

The family plans to turn the site into Snug Harbor Past Tymes, a seasonal remote lodge offering several recreational activities, including bear viewing, bird watching, fishing, clamming, sea kayaking, historic tours and art.

"It has the best of everything," Jennie said. "And it sits between two volcanoes. It's beautiful."

The newly dubbed Snug Harbor Past Tymes is on 19 acres of land sloping down to more than 10 acres of tidelands at the south end of Chisik Island in Tuxedni Bay. The site has about 19 buildings of various ages and states of repair. The family plans to do all renovation work themselves a little at a time. They are starting with the cannery's office and owner's house. After that, they will work on a bunkhouse that sleeps about 40. Jennie said they hope to be open to lodgers on a limited scale in about three or four years.

Though they will be upgrading plumbing and electrical systems as well as making some structural repairs, Jennie said they plan to do as little cosmetic and renovation work as possible. They were attracted to the site by its unique history and family memories, and they want, above all, to preserve that for themselves and others.

"It's camp style and that's the way we want to keep it, just as unique as it is," she said. "We just want to share it share the history and uniqueness with folks. ... We want to try to keep the same atmosphere as when it was a camp."

The Porters are in the process of getting the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They plan to make history a big attraction of the lodge operation with tours through the canning facility and various displays of the original equipment used at the cannery, much of which still is intact and comes complete with manuals and blueprints.

"The canning line is still there, and it's like they just stopped it, in limbo," Jennie said. "And there's a lot of really neat things there. It's in remarkable condition. They kept very good care of the place."

The Porters plan to do the same.

"We bought it out of love," Jennie said. "It's just such a unique place."



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