As community looks toward future, museum preserves pieces of past

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2000

Soldotna's history is alive and well -- and open to the public -- at the Soldotna Historical Society's museum. The society has preserved and furnished several historic buildings from the original town site, which may be seen at the museum, near Centennial Park off Kalifornsky Beach Road.

The town of Soldotna had its beginnings in the late 1940s. Among its first residents were Ira Little, who built his cabin along the Kenai River in 1948, and Dick Gerhardt, who staked his homestead in what is now downtown Soldotna. His cabin originally stood where the King Salmon Motel is now located.

Both cabins were moved by the historical society to keep them from being torn down. Also preserved at the museum is the original Soldotna Chamber of Commerce building, built in 1960.

"We've got quite a collection of old buildings by now," said historical society member Katherine Parker.

"Some of the old-timers who have come to look at them say it wasn't really like this back in the homestead days. Everybody was spread out on their 160 acres. But we've preserved these cabins as close to their original state as possible and furnished them with things the homesteaders used everyday, so people can see what life was like back then."

The historical society also has worked to preserve other historic buildings at their original sites. Soldotna's first post office still stands at its original location, near Soldotna Elementary School. The two-story log structure was originally built by Howard and Maxine Lee in 1948 and became a post office in 1949. The historical society has applied to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places, said Parker.

Another cabin restored by the society was the home of Ed Ciechanski, built in 1946. The cabin is located on Ciechanski Road, which is named after the family.

Parker invites visitors to come to the museum.

"We have a great wildlife display, with a nice big standing bear that someone shot illegally," she said.

The paintings of wildlife habitat were contributed by Soldotna artist Boyd Shaffer.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sat-urdays, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays.



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