The Oskolkoff Cabin has been nestled between the St. Nicholas Memorial and residential buildings for nearly a century. Today Kenai knows it as Veronica's Cafe. Doug Darien, who lived in the cabin during the '40s, said that structurally it has barely changed.
"The guy that built it did a fantastic job," Darien, 76, said. "He didn't use a single nail in the whole building."
John Oskolkoff built the cabin himself in 1918. The hand-hewn logs still hold the roof up in the original portions of the building, just as they did in the early years of Kenai.
Unlike the majority of Kenai's historic homes, the building has remained an active part of the community its entire life. The cabin has served as a house, art gallery and a coffee shop during its 92 year life-span.
Darien remembers hauling wood in for the fire stove as a child.
"It was a daily thing after school," he said. "We didn't have much playing time back then."
He said that the well gave his family trouble. He usually drew water from the nearby Wilson House, which still stands today.
Mike Capenter, who owns the lot, said that he made an addition to the cabin when he and his wife, Margaret Wik, inherited the property.
"It was a quaint place," Carpenter said. "It needed a lot of work."
He said that he installed a furnace and replaced the malfunctioning well. The current owner opened the upstairs for a bedroom and added sheet rock to the walls. He also added linoleum to the plankwood floor downstairs. He said that his wife's family didn't like the place much.
"They lived miserably," he said.
He and his wife stayed in the cabin on trips to the Peninsula.
"We had a fishing operation across the inlet. It was our stepping stone from Anchorage."
Evelyn Boulette lived Kenai when Darien's family stayed in the Oskolkoff Cabin. Boulette recalled visiting the cabin during her childhood.
She said that Veronica's kitchen is located in the original bedroom space. Aside from the switch-a-roo and the deck outside, Boulette said that place looks just the way she remembered it.
The lot became close to uninhabitable in recent history as well, according to Carpenter.
He said that a former tenant collected garbage from local auctions and left it in the front yard. He brought several oil barrels and a wrecked pink trailer for no apparent reason, Carpenter said.
"It took about six hauls to clean it out," Carpenter said.
Before he rented the space to Veronica's, he made a go at a coffee shop of his own. The Whole Cup, as it was called, only lasted one summer though.
He said that his partner didn't consider Kenai a viable business environment at the time.
The Dolchok Cabin and Wilson House are eligible to become part of the National Registry of Historic Places. Carpenter said that he wasn't familiar with the process, but said he'd consider nominating the cabin after he looked up the qualifications.
Tony Cella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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