Riverside House is shown above. A sheet advertising 36 riverfront condominiums is at the restaurant's entrance. Condos priced at $400,000 to $700,000 are planned to replace Riverside House and the adjoining hotel. According to Riverside House manager, a new restaurant also will be likely be built.
Photo by Katherine Parker
Riverside House, a restaurant and hotel on the banks of the Kenai River, has been a part of Soldotna history since 1956-57. Local builder Burton Carver, from Ohio farm country, arrived in ‘49 with a sawmill, which would be a symbol of his influence on Soldotna’s development.
Built as the home of Burt and Joyce Carver, the living room had a wonderful view of the river. Carver, who became Soldotna’s second mayor in 1961, on cold nights would bring the council from the chilly city building (where the Police building is now) to his comfortable home.
The Carvers enjoyed their home for about five years before turning it into a restaurant. The spacious dinning area became the favored place for memorable civic and organizational meetings. Soldotna Chamber began weekly luncheon meetings at the restaurant in 1963 and continued until last fall. Award dinners were special chamber occasions there until the 80’s when the capacity crowd moved to the Sports Center. The Toastmaster and Toastmistress Clubs also met there in the early 60’s.
People from communities on the peninsula met at Riverside monthly throughout 1963 to decide the borough boundaries and class of borough.
After the Alaska State championship sled dog races began on the peninsula, award banquets were held at Riverside House (alternating with Kenai) as George Attla, the Huslia Hustler, and veterinarian Roland Lombard from Massachusetts, perennial champs, claimed awards. That is, until the February races ended in the 80’s for lack of snow.
Al Hershberger has memories of the 25th anniversary celebration for Don and Verona Wilson, hosted by the Carvers at Riverside. Wilson was Soldotna’s first mayor, and Wilson’s grocery store was Soldotna’s first (now occupied by Johnson Bros. Sportfishing).
Carver added to Riverside House twice, putting on hotel rooms in 1965, but Soldotna hadn’t yet became the attraction it would be. The rooms were empty and he sold the property to avoid bankruptcy.
During his years in Soldotna, Carver added buildings to the town. Reger’s Garage, built in 1951, loomed large with only little cabins nearby. (A 1952 aerial photo at the Soldotna Homestead Museum shows this landmark, which was destroyed by fire in 1981). Carver also is credited with building of the Sky Bowl (now Sourdough Sal’s) in 1989, bringing bowling to town.
After selling the riverside property, Carver built another home on the river in another part of town.
Riverside House has changed ownership over the years. Phil and Caroline Turkington had it from 1993 until June 2006. The owner is now Mark Patterson of Clackamas, Ore.
While her husband built, Joyce taught school in Kenai and later Soldotna. She was the first president of the library board. A commemorative painting of her is in the library. Burt was town mayor from 1961-65 and from 1972-74.
Carver’s son, Sky, a real estate developer, spends time between Anchorage and Soldotna. His Soldotna home is on the river, though in a different locale than built by his dad. His sister, Dawn, lives in Port Townsend, Wash.
This article was written by Katherine Parker for the Soldotna Historical Society.
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