A look into the past: Highway superintendent's house, Soldotna Creek

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

This house is located where Soldotna Creek flows into the Kenai River (behind Don Jose's Restaurant). When this 1965 photo was taken, it was occupied by Ralph and Ruth Soberg.

Ralph Soberg was the Alaska Road Commission superintendent in charge of building the Sterling Highway. Hawley Sterling was the engineer in charge of design, but the actual building was directed by Soberg, who had a long career in Alaska building roads and bridges. He came to the peninsula in 1946 and chose the location for the Soldotna bridge, Kasilof bridge and the highway's right of way.

Soberg loved the north and applied his Scandinavian heritage to Alaska. He built the ski hill at the then Moose Range just south of Soldotna and regularly cleared Arc Lake for ice skating. His book, "Bridging Alaska," was published in 1991. The superintendent's house was built in the mid-1950s (either 1954 or 1956) when the ARC road building camp was constructed at Soldotna Creek.

A communication tower is to the left of the house. Later a gabled roof was added. Today, the cleared area has grown back to a healthy stand of birch and spruce, and the house is preserved within Soldotna Creek Park. Before Soldotna was established, Soldotna Creek was the location of one of the many Dena'ina fall moose camps.

In the early part of the last century, there were few moose in the Tyonek area, and Dena'ina from Tyonek would join Kenai Dena'ina in a moose hunt near the creek. They would pull dories up the Kenai River to the camp in a two-day journey. Sometimes they could pull from shore, and often they had to wade in the cold, fast-flowing water. At the creek camp, the Dena'ina would hunt moose in the hinterland and then drift the meat and hides back down the river to Kenai.

This text was written by Marge Mullen and Alan Boraas. The photograph is part of the photograph archives of the Anthropology Lab at Kenai Peninsula College.

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