Current weather

  • Scattered clouds
  • 54°
    Scattered clouds

Museum holds history's key

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Nestled by the ball fields, back in one of the few remaining wooded areas of Soldotna, lies the Soldotna Historical Society and Museum.

Two main buildings house a plethora of relics and artifacts that serve as a memorial for the early days of homesteading in Soldotna.

New to the museum this year is a display of photographs that depict before and after scenes of Soldotna businesses.

For instance, Beemun's Variety was once a movie theater and a bakery, the old North Country Fair was once Crescent Dairy and BJ's was formerly the Bear's Den Bar. For the most part, the pictures represent Soldotna's history from 1948 to the present.

Curator Mary Dean and a volunteer staff are on hand to share stories and anecdotes of their own and of others' from these early years on the Kenai Peninsula.

For example, looking at the gaping mouth and sharp teeth belonging a large brown bear wall hanging, Dean tells a story about a woman and her dental fiasco during the homesteading years.

Apparently, she had a toothache and she and her husband skied to a nearby cannery to borrow forceps from them. A gentleman offered to pull out the tooth for her, but instead of pulling the tooth clear he crushed it in her gums. It was four years until she was able to get it treated.

The museum happens to own a set of dentist's tools, that unfortunately for the woman, came a little too late to help her with her predicament. The remainder of the collection varies greatly, from a miniature Alaska flag signed by the designer, Benny Benson, to jars of canned moose and bear meat.

Damon Hall, named for a third-generation homesteader who died with her son in Whittier from the tsunami aftermath of the Good Friday earthquake, houses different species of birds and mammals native to the peninsula.

A monstrous stuffed brown bear confiscated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game greets visitors at the door. On either side of the entrance hang a polar bear and brown bear skin.

Also in Damon Hall is a dog sled built by a nurse, Becky Steffen, who used the sled to visit patients who couldn't come to her. She constructed the sled by lashing it together with strips of hide. At one point she fell through the ice when the temperature was 50 degrees below zero.

As Dean put it, "You really had to want to be here in those days," she said.

Homesteaders put up with no electricity or running water, and photo albums in the museum are testaments to the sometimes harsh conditions the Alaska pioneers lived in.

Dean has worked at the museum for three summers, and she said that this year's visitor's numbers are down significantly from past seasons.

"They are low, lower than usual. It was climbing, climbing, climbing but we haven't been having the tour groups like usual," she said.

"It is just a shame that most people don't get a taste of something that is a part of their history," Dean said. "Especially children."

One group of children that has been through the museum this summer was on a field trip from Ninilchik.

"They just loved it," said Dean, who later received a $20 donation for the museum from the group and a letter of gratitude from each of the 20 children.

"It gives you the flavor of the area," she said explaining the museum's importance. "Almost everyone that comes here has favorable things to say. What we hear most is how wonderful it is that we have preserved a part of history because once things disintegrate they're gone. That's it."

Another aspect of the historical site is the work in progress on the Ciechanski cabin. At some point in the future homesteader Ed Ciechanski's wood carvings and other artifacts will be displayed inside.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. It located on Centennial Park Road off Kalifornsky Beach road near where it intersects with the Sterling Highway.

HEAD:Museum holds history's key

BYLINE1:By CARLY BOSSERT

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Nestled by the ball fields, back in one of the few remaining wooded areas of Soldotna, lies the Soldotna Historical Society and Museum.

Two main buildings house a plethora of relics and artifacts that serve as a memorial for the early days of homesteading in Soldotna.

New to the museum this year is a display of photographs that depict before and after scenes of Soldotna businesses.

For instance, Beemun's Variety was once a movie theater and a bakery, the old North Country Fair was once Crescent Dairy and BJ's was formerly the Bear's Den Bar. For the most part, the pictures represent Soldotna's history from 1948 to the present.

Curator Mary Dean and a volunteer staff are on hand to share stories and anecdotes of their own and of others' from these early years on the Kenai Peninsula.

For example, looking at the gaping mouth and sharp teeth belonging a large brown bear wall hanging, Dean tells a story about a woman and her dental fiasco during the homesteading years.

Apparently, she had a toothache and she and her husband skied to a nearby cannery to borrow forceps from them. A gentleman offered to pull out the tooth for her, but instead of pulling the tooth clear he crushed it in her gums. It was four years until she was able to get it treated.

The museum happens to own a set of dentist's tools, that unfortunately for the woman, came a little too late to help her with her predicament. The remainder of the collection varies greatly, from a miniature Alaska flag signed by the designer, Benny Benson, to jars of canned moose and bear meat.

Damon Hall, named for a third-generation homesteader who died with her son in Whittier from the tsunami aftermath of the Good Friday earthquake, houses different species of birds and mammals native to the peninsula.

A monstrous stuffed brown bear confiscated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game greets visitors at the door. On either side of the entrance hang a polar bear and brown bear skin.

Also in Damon Hall is a dog sled built by a nurse, Becky Steffen, who used the sled to visit patients who couldn't come to her. She constructed the sled by lashing it together with strips of hide. At one point she fell through the ice when the temperature was 50 degrees below zero.

As Dean put it, "You really had to want to be here in those days," she said.

Homesteaders put up with no electricity or running water, and photo albums in the museum are testaments to the sometimes harsh conditions the Alaska pioneers lived in.

Dean has worked at the museum for three summers, and she said that this year's visitor's numbers are down significantly from past seasons.

"They are low, lower than usual. It was climbing, climbing, climbing but we haven't been having the tour groups like usual," she said.

"It is just a shame that most people don't get a taste of something that is a part of their history," Dean said. "Especially children."

One group of children that has been through the museum this summer was on a field trip from Ninilchik.

"They just loved it," said Dean, who later received a $20 donation for the museum from the group and a letter of gratitude from each of the 20 children.

"It gives you the flavor of the area," she said explaining the museum's importance. "Almost everyone that comes here has favorable things to say. What we hear most is how wonderful it is that we have preserved a part of history because once things disintegrate they're gone. That's it."

Another aspect of the historical site is the work in progress on the Ciechanski cabin. At some point in the future homesteader Ed Ciechanski's wood carvings and other artifacts will be displayed inside.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. It located on Centennial Park Road off Kalifornsky Beach road near where it intersects with the Sterling Highway.



CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS