In the Old Town section of Kenai a small neighborhood has sprung up. The small cluster of homes has been here for just a few years, but they certainly aren’t new.
The five homes are actually cabins from Kenai’s historic past. One of the cabins dates back to 1898. The others were built in the early 1900s. All were constructed by families who homesteaded to the Kenai area.
The effort to preserve the past in an area called Cabin Park began nearly a decade ago. Jim Harris of the Kenai Historical Society says it was the idea of Jim Ford and his wife Mary.
Jim Ford was the head of UNOCAL in Kenai back then. He and his wife learned about the cabins which for years were locked in a storage area owned by the local Russian Orthodox Church and out of sight from the public.
The Ford’s asked the City of Kenai to negotiate a deal to take possession of the cabins. According to Harris, talks broke down at one point, but the Ford’s continued to push. Finally an agreement was struck and the city took ownership of the structures.
Harris said Jim Ford began recruiting volunteers for the Cabin Park project. Harris and his wife June joined the effort becoming members of the Kenai Historical Society.
According to June Harris the group began raising money. A $50,000 grant came from the Rasmuson Foundation. Local companies also lent muscle and equipment to the cause. Harris says Peak Oil Field Services Company and some of its workers moved the cabins into the park.
Several of the cabins needed repairs. The years and weather did damage to rooftops and wood along the foundations. June Harris says UNOCAL retirees replaced the damaged areas carefully matching original wood on the cabins.
“We tried to do as little work as possible so the cabins remain mostly authentic,” Harris said.
For the past three years Cabin Park has been open for tours.
The Harris’s say the emphasis now is to find artifacts of that time period to place in the cabins. June Harris says many longtime Kenai residents have donated items they had in their homes.
She says people enjoy making the donations then coming to the park to view them at Cabin Park, where an important part of Kenai’s history, once locked away and out of sight, is now on display for all to see.