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Soldotna marks milestones in its history

Posted: Friday, July 27, 2001

We tend to be hooked on the present and focused on the future. But without knowledge of our history, we find ourselves adrift. Here are some of the landmark events for Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula and Soldotna:

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 the Kenai Peninsula, at the site of modern 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 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, 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; chamber of commerce organizes.

1957 -- Oil is discovered near the Swanson River in July.

1958 -- Voters approve statehood.

1959 -- Alaska named 49th state in January; the Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce incorporates; Kalifornsky 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 -- 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 1202; 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; Borough Building and Swiftwater Park open.

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 Elementary School opens.

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

1982 -- Safeway opens; the Peninsula Clarion comes out five days a week.

1983 -- The Soldotna Sports Center opens.

1984 -- Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School open; the Legislature establishes the Kenai River Special Management Area.

1985 -- Les Anderson catches 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 and the "Exxon Valdez" runs aground in Prince William Sound.

1990 -- Skyview High School opens; 20,000 visitors go through the visitors' center and 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 Kenai River Classic Fishing Tournament; Fred Meyer store built.

1995 -- New $2 million police station 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; Dave Carey becomes mayor when Ken Lancaster becomes a state representative; and Soldotna's census counts 3,760 residents.

2001 -- Major rebuild of the Sterling Highway "magic mile" in downtown Soldotna.

--Compiled by Shana Loshbaugh



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