Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Monday, July 03, 2006

 

  A hand-hewn log cabin, built around 1918 as a family dwelling, now houses a popular eatery in Old Town Kenai. Photo by Mary Ford

A hand-hewn log cabin, built around 1918 as a family dwelling, now houses a popular eatery in Old Town Kenai.

Photo by Mary Ford

The sturdy log building that houses Veronica’s Cafe, a popular eatery in Old Town Kenai, had its beginnings around 1918, when John Oskolkoff, a fisherman by trade, decided to build a new home for his family.

Oskolkoff cut and squared off the logs, joined them temporarily with dovetail notches then let them dry and shrink for a season before dismantling and reassembling them at their present location near the Russian Orthodox Church.

Oskolkoff lived there until the late 1930s. He died after years of failing health.

Family members occupied the cabin, then rented it out until the early 1940s when they sold it to Alec Wik Sr. and his wife Margaret “Maggie” Wilson Wik.

“It seemed we had a lot of chores when I was a kid,” Alec Jr. wrote in the book, “Once Upon The Kenai.”

“A lot of wood had to be chopped for the stove in the house and also for the steam bath.”

And he recalled hauling water from a community seepage well in the bluff overlooking Cook Inlet. When next door neighbors, Clarence and Pauline March, dug their own well, they allowed the Wiks to fill their buckets there.

The Wiks divorced, and after a time, Maggie and the children moved to Rika Doolittle’s homestead. Maggie married Emil Dolchok and they moved back to the cabin by the church.

Dolchok was a fisherman. He also helped Ray Rowley bring electricity to Kenai. He wired his own home, too, and installed running water. He had the kids dig a cesspool then he put in an indoor toilet.

“But,” Alec wrote, “We boys still had to use the outhouse.”

Around 1950, Dolchok built a shed-roofed addition with lumber from dismantled fish traps. When Kenai incorporated in 1960, Dolchok served on the first city council. The family lived in the enlarged cabin until the early 1980s.

Mike Carpenter purchased the home and, among other improvements, extended Dolchok’s addition and built an upper deck and exterior stairs, according to the Kenai Townsite Historic District Survey Report, prepared in 1996 for the city of Kenai by Sylvia Elliott and Donna Lane.

In 1991, a tenant proposed to develop the cabin and grounds into a tourist attraction, but the city refused him a permit. Later, Mary Ann Alfano, was issued a permit for a cafe. It was she who gave the cabin its new name, Veronica’s Coffee House. Veronica had been Alfano’s dog. It disappeared and as a memorial, Alfano placed a sign on the roof bearing its likeness — with angel wings added.

Rebecca Lambourn and Stan Coleman retained the name when they purchased the business in 2004. They lease the cabin, and, in addition to serving freshly prepared foods, take pride in providing a venue for live music three times a week in a safe, alcohol- and smoke-free atmosphere.

Today, after 88 years and several changes of ownership, the cabin still stands across from the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church and next to the Chapel of Saint Nicholas.

This column was provided by Mary Ford with the Kenai Historical Society. Peninsula Reflections appears each Monday on the Community page.



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