Historical Highlights

Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2006

As Soldotna and Alaska race into the new century, people are focused on the future. But it is interesting — and instructive — to look back at events that helped shape the community:

· About 1000 — Dena’ina Athabascan people move onto the Kenai Peninsula, replacing earlier residents of the Kenai River area.

· 1741 — Vitus Bering’s expedition marks the first European contacts with Alaska.

· 1778 — James Cook brings the first sailing ships into the inlet later named for him.

· 1785 — Russian traders build Fort Alexandrovsk, the first European settlement on the Alaska mainland and on the Kenai Peninsula, at the site of present-day Nanwalek.

· 1791 — Russians establish Redoubt St. Nicholas at Kenai.

· 1867 — Russia sells Alaska to the United States.

· 1938 — The U.S. establishes the Kenai National Moose Range (now the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge).

·1946 — The Alaska Road Commission begins a road project to link Cooper Landing, Kenai and Homer.

· 1947 — The largest documented forest fire on the Kenai Peninsula chars more than 300,000 acres of the north central peninsula; homesteading opens on tracts between the moose range and Kenai; the Bodnar brothers (Alex and Marcus), Jack Irons and Don Culver move to the area; Mullens stake a claim.

· 1948 — Homesteaders pour into area, including Mullens (Marge and Frank), Farnsworths (Dolly and Jack), Lancashires (Larry and Rusty), Lees (Maxine and Howard), Robinsons (Nina and Jesse), Howard Binkley, Dick Gerhart, Larry McGuire, Ira Little and Marvin Smith; the Alaska Road Commission builds a bridge across the Kenai River and opens a seasonal road from the Soldotna junction to Kenai and Cooper Landing.

· 1949 — Soldotna (“Soldatna”) post office opens with Maxine Lee as postmaster earning $14 a month; the new highway reaches Ninilchik.

· 1950 — Census figures show 21 people in Soldotna and 250 in Kenai; the Sterling Highway is officially open; Binkley starts subdividing land along the highway; Soldotna’s first church opened on the Kenai Spur Highway.

· 1951 — Farnsworths open a gas station at the “Y.”

· 1952 — The Wilsons open the first grocery.

· 1954 — Homer Electric Association hooks up power to Soldotna.

· 1956 — The highway from Sterling to Kenai gets paved;

· 1957 — Oil is discovered near the Swanson River in July.

· 1958 — Voters approve statehood.

· 1959 — Alaska is named the 49th state in January; the Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce incorporates; Kali-fornsky Beach Road opens.

· 1960 — Soldotna, population 332, incorporates as a fourth-class city; Don Wilson is the first mayor; Soldotna Elementary School opens; the weekly Cheechako News appears; doctors Isaak and Gaede open a medical clinic.

· 1961 — The first Soldotna Progress Days event celebrates the new natural gas line serving the town (the peninsula’s first); Joyce Carver chairs the volunteer group establishing a library; Soldotna Tourist Center opens at the Kenai Spur Highway junction; airport opens on Warehouse Street.

· 1962 — Kenai Peninsula Borough organizes with Harold Pomeroy as chairman; Funny River Road built; first offshore drilling in Cook Inlet.

· 1963 — Kenai Peninsula Community College offers its first classes; chamber opens log cabin visitors center where fire hall now sits.

· 1964 — Good Friday Earthquake; George Navarre is borough chairman; Kenai River Bridge rebuilt.

· 1966 — Centennial Park opens.

· 1967 — Soldotna becomes a first-class city.

· 1968 — First Prudhoe Bay oil well opens.

· 1969 — Kenai River floods.

· 1970 — Soldotna’s population is 1,202; town gets its first police officer; Soldotna Junior High opens; the Peninsula Clarion begins publication.

· 1971 — Central Peninsula General Hospital admits its first patient; the Soldotna Urban Reconstruction Paving Project gets under way; Swiftwater Park opens.

· 1973 — Soldotna installs a community water and sewer system; Peninsula Winter Games begin.

· 1977 — The Alyeska pipeline and Soldotna’s first mall (Blazy’s) are completed.

· 1978 — Redoubt Elemen-tary School opens: and the Peninsula Clarion comes out five days a week.

· 1980 — The population is 2,320; Soldotna High School opens; Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends replace income taxes.

· 1982 — Safeway opens.

· 1983 — The Soldotna Sports Center opens.

· 1984 — Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School opens; the Legislature establishes the Kenai River Special Management Area.

· 1985 — Les Anderson catches the world-record king salmon; Soldotna Historical Society starts; economy slumps; Soldotna hires Rich Underkofler as its first city manager.

· 1986 — The city’s first bonds, worth $4 million, pay for paving residential streets; first comprehensive plan drafted.

· 1987 — City hall and the Soldotna Visitors Center open.

· 1988 — Soldotna Creek Park opens.

· 1989 — Mount Redoubt erupts; the Exxon Valdez runs aground in Prince William Sound.

· 1990 — Skyview High School opens; 20,000 visitors go through the visitors center; Soldotna’s census counts 3,485 residents.

· 1991 — The first Kenai River Festival celebrates the river and examines ways to protect it.

· 1992 — After a $3.3 million expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, a chlorine leak there evacuates more than 2,500 residents; the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center opens.

· 1994 — The Soldotna Creek Habitat Demonstration Project pilots riverbank restoration; the first annual Kenai River Classic Fishing Tournament is held; Fred Meyer store built.

· 1995 — New $2 million police station is built; the community holds the Mainstreet Alaska community planning session; Internet service comes to the central peninsula.

· 1996 — Tom Boedeker hired as Soldotna’s second city manager; Kenai River Center and Classic Fishwalk open.

· 1998 — Soldotna celebrates its golden anniversary; the state road maintenance crew moves out of town to a new shop; Joslyn Tinker of Soldotna crowned Miss Alaska.

· 1999 — Ground is broken for the new Kenai River Center to be built on Funny River Road.

· 2000 — Avalanches cut Kenai Peninsula off from Anchorage; federal government gives Soldotna $1 million for Centennial Park river-related projects.

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