July 24: The Homestead Museum

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Yesterday we had the pleasure of visiting this museum which is located on the road to Centennial Park.  It consists of several old log cabins which were used in various ways by the homesteaders.  The state opened a large portion of land to veterans to homestead right after WWII.  This area included all of what is now Kenai (city of), Soldotna, and Sterling City.  Veterans could claim anywhere from 1 to 4 parcels of  land (40 to 160 acres), although the plots had to be contiguous.  Certain conditions had to be met, such as building a habitable shelter, clearing a certain portion of the land, and living there for 1 year.  If the conditions were met, the veteran was given the deed to the property.  Of course, at this time there were no roads or electricity or any other improvements.  These homesteaders had to be tough, creative, and tenacious to live here.  Our guide, Carol,  was the daughter of homesteaders and was as knowledgeable about all things related to the subject as we could have wished. Our personal tour lasted two and a half hours!!!!009

After the city of Soldotna gave (actually leased for $5 a year) the land to the historical society, they began moving in old buildings as they became available.  The main building was the first Visitors Center in town.  When the new one was built, the museum had its first building.  Inside there are all types of exhibits, including examples of the various types of salmon, information on the 1964 earthquake, and maps of all kinds.  This king (Chinook) salmon was probably 4′ long.  A fisherman must have a special stamp to fish for them. 010

This red (sockeye) salmon is what everyone is fishing for right now and is most prized for its red fleshy meat.011

The silver (coho) salmon arrive after the reds, probably in August.  Although they are good to eat, the locals do not value them as highly as they do the reds.  012

Alaskans are particular about their salmon and don’t have a lot of love for the pink.  According to our tour guide, canned pink salmon is the reason most people don’t like salmon.017

Another cabin, Damon Hall, used to be a community center.  Now it houses most of the natural history exhibits.  ( I will show all the building exteriors at a later date because, although they are all log cabins, they are not all constructed in the same way.  It is interesting to see the different methods that were used.  I’ll let you compare the construction of the various buildings to see which you think is most efficient, attractive, etc..) This Dahl sheep ram is one of the exhibits.021Here I am with an Alaskan Brown Bear.  (Alaskans do not use the term “grizzly”) Although this is a good-sized example–the hunter would not have had him mounted if not–it is not a state record.  This is one enormous animal.024

My, what big teeth you have!!  Most museums would never let a visitor get this close to an exhibit; however, this museum encourages it.  They also have pelts of various animals hanging along the walls to encourage children to feel the different types of fur.037

The pelt on the right is from a polar bear.  It is surprising how small the brown bears seems next to it!039

Now you can see all three “bears” for comparison.  By the way, in the previous photos with the bear, Jerry and I were standing on a small box.  This gives you a more accurate comparison between Jerry and the other carnivores.  I think this picture also says that, in Alaska, humans are not at the top of the food chain.051

Well, kids, that’s the natural history lesson for the day.  Stay tuned for more tomorrow.  I’m leaving you with this picture of the forget-me-not, Alaska’s state flower.  I took this picture at the museum.  The individual flowers are about one half inch wide.  I have never seen this color blue in a wildflower before.  It is so lovely!

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