Archive for the 'History' Category

Palmer Museum and Visitor Center July 8th, 2014

Categories: Around Palmer, History

Palmer Museum and Visitor Center Contact Info:
723 S. Valley Way, Palmer, AK 99645
Summer Hours (May 1 – Sept. 30):
Sunday through Saturday, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Giant Cabbage Sculpture

Giant Cabbage Sculpture

Smorgasbord: a type of Scandinavian meal served buffet style with a mixture of many different dishes.
Palmer Visitor Center: A smorgasbord of information.

There is literally a buffet of information at the Visitor Center. If you need to know which company to contact to book a fishing charter, find a good place to eat in Palmer, or even just wonder about the history of our good city, this is the place to go. But if you can’t actually visit the Center, you can still get the answers you are looking for. Museum Director Selena Ortega-Chiolero says the Visitor Center receives approximately 100 emails a week with questions about visiting the MatSu Valley. The staff at the Visitor Center personally respond to all of these emails, sending an information packet with specific information regarding the questions and general information about Palmer.

“It’s our job not just to promote our organization, but to promote Palmer.” Selena says. One of their goals is to share the history of Palmer in a visual way. Besides preserving the past, this also means recognizing that history is being created every day. As art is a reflection of our culture, the Museum supports local artists by displaying their work and purchasing one local art piece each year. You can also buy pieces from the gift shop.

How does your garden grow?

How does your garden grow?

Selena says the number one thing visitors ask to see is “the giant vegetables”. And thanks to the efforts of the Head Gardener (and Assistants), you need go no further than the Museum’s own backyard. This is a truly spectacular showcase garden, with a dizzying array of plants, vegetables, flowers, and bushes. (Everything is helpfully labeled for those of us who are not botanists.) All of the edibles in the garden are donated to the senior center.

New Smithsonian "American Food" Exhibit

New Smithsonian “American Food” Exhibit

Currently, the Museum is proud to display the Smithsonian Institute’s Museums on Main Street “Key Ingredients: America By Food” exhibit. There are only four Museums in the state that were selected to host these exhibits this year. This theme ties in with the Museum’s efforts to promote agriculture and local farmers. In fact, the Museum is hosting a Community Potluck on July 19th from 12-4pm at Spring Creek Farm. (That’s 6402 Lossing Road.) This event is free, and it is a great opportunity to learn about local farming.

For more information about the Visitor Center, visit their website.

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Colony Inn: A Piece of Historic Palmer Alaska February 16th, 2012

Categories: Businesses, History, Restaurants and Cafes


Colony Inn Palmer, AkColony Inn

325 East Elmwood Ave

Palmer, Ak 99645

In 1935, this building was used as a dorm to house single teachers and nurses. In 1970, the Salvation Army purchased the property to use for housing for the elderly. Later, a fire on the third floor closed the building and it was left empty. In 1993, Janet Kincaid purchased the building with a vision for restoration. Many layers of dirt and varnish later, this historic building is now known as the Colony Inn. The Colony Inn is proud to have been the recipient of the First Palmer Historical Award for preservation by the National Historic Register.

The Inn offers 12 rooms, each with a private bath, television, and wifi. The building was restored with an effort to preserve the history, but make practical renovations like new plumbing and windows. The Inn is furnished with antiques and many were purchased right here in Palmer at Cover Ups! Janet describes the atmosphere she has created as “olden days with modern amenities.”

The Inn Cafe is leased by Chef Pete Scott and offers lunch Monday through Friday and brunch on Sunday. I had the french dip for lunch with a side salad and it was delicious! The small menu offers a well-rounded, basic selection of food for everyone. The service was impressively quick and the staff was wonderful!

The Inn’s great room offers a nice place for gatherings such as weddings, meet and greets, and family or business events. The most recent event was a book signing for local author Eowyn Ivey. Some of the Inn’s most memorable events have been 50th wedding anniversary celebrations with couples who originally wed at the Inn and returned to celebrate again 50 years later!
Written in collaboration by Janet Kincaid and Amber Lanphier.
Colony Inn ~ 325 East Elmwood Ave ~ Palmer, Ak 99645 ~

Guest Room in Colony Inn


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The 32nd Potato Bowl September 25th, 2010

Categories: Events, History

The Potato Bowl has been one of the most look-forward-to games of every football season for Palmer and Wasilla…for the last 32 years.
I dropped by today to see Palmer win again Wasilla (third year in a row) with a score of 26 – 12. Palmer has won 23 of the last 32 Potato Bowls.

The weather was beautiful! Clear skies and light breezes throughout the afternoon. Though the game was rescheduled last night because of dangerously strong winds, but the stands were filled today with spectators of all ages: player’s younger siblings to oldtime Palmeranians. Not only were cars bedecked in blue and white paint, so were school windows and student’s bodies.

Just another day in the life of a Palmeranian! Click here for a link to the Frontiersman with more info about today’s game.

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Underground Palmer July 24th, 2009

Categories: History

Are they utilidors? Are they bomb shelters? Are they underground hallways to avoid snow?  I have heard rumors about these tunnels for years.  Some people said they were put there to allow access between houses during World War II, people joked about other possible purposes.

Janet Kincaid, a longtime Palmeranian and owner of the Colony Inn and Cafe knows about the tunnels because the building that she owns is a terminus of the tunnels. She was going to meet me there but we had a scheduling mixup.  So as I waited for Janet, Mike Fisher jovially volunteered to share what he knew.

“What many people don’t know about the Colony Inn”, Mike Fisher told me, “is that there’s just about as much of the building below ground as there is above!”. The apparently 2 story building has two floors below ground as well. He took me down two flights of stairs behind the “Employees Only” door and we came out into a large open room, almost two stories high.

The walls were cement, as was the floor. But what caught my eye was the hugest boiler I’ve ever seen.  It was easily 7 ft tall and 10 ft long. I was told that the tunnels under Palmer were built in the 1930’s, along with the rest of the main buildings like the high school (borough building), Trading Post (The Red Beet) and Creamery and Warehouse (old Matanuska Maid building). The tunnels had pipes that were used to heat the many buildings all at once from two huge boilers. One boiler was at Matanuska Maid and I stood directly in front of the other one.  

Mike showed me into a dark room adjacent to the boiler room and told me it was the coal room. The ceiling was just as high but at the very top of the west facing wall was an opening. He said colonists would back trucks up to the opening and shovel coal down into the room as fuel for the boilers.

Many of the tunnels have since been caved in for road safety, as most go directly underneath the road system. The opening of one came out in the boiler room, two stories under the Colony Inn, but it was caved in and covered over in cement. You can still see the outline.

If you talk to some of the more adventurous junior high school students from a couple years ago, you can probably find people who’ve been down in the tunnels.  One of the known accesses is fenced off and is illegal to enter, but that hasn’t stopped a few of my acqaintances. I’ve been told that certain buildings have been severely damaged by fires started down in tunnels by careless youth.

Have more information on this topic? Please contact me and share your knowledge! If any of the stated facts are incorrect, again, please let me know. This is by no means the end of my research on this interesting part of Palmer’s history.

*The first photo is of the large boiler. The second is of the coal room, note the opening near the top of the photo.

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Colony House Museum June 27th, 2009

Categories: History

The Colony House Museum is run by the Palmer Historical Society. It’s located on Elmwood Ave, across from the big, white borough building. The home belonged to Irene and Oscar Beylund, two original colonists of the Matanuska colony.  It was turned over to the Palmer Historical Society in 1998 to maintain and operate it. Children of the original colonists give tours Tuesday through Saturday, from 10-4.

The price for a tour is $2 for adults, $1 for children. I paid the $2 yesterday and entered for the first time. Apparently, if you’ve gone through elementary school here in Palmer, you’ve visited. But I was homeschooled till highschool, so this was my first.

Upon entering, one of the proprietors greeted me and showed me maps of the divided homesteads, each of 40 acres. She pointed to one, #189 and told me that was her family’s homestead, out near the butte. It was larger than 40 acres because some of it was unuseable. The ARRC (Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corp) wanted each family to have 40 acres of workable land for agriculture. She also showed me a poster-size photo of Palmer taken in 1938. It was a lot more spread out then!

The living room is decorated with donated furniture from the 30’s and 40’s era and some original to the home. A large, upright piano takes up one wall. Each colonist family was allowed to bring 2,000 lbs of goods and personal items to Alaska with them. So, the owners of the piano lifted up the top lid and filled it full of clothes; they didn’t have any suitcases.

The kitchen is cheery with yellow cabinetry and a huge stove/oven sits opposite. The back entry has a milk separator in one corner; for separating the cream from the milk after milking the cows morning and evening. There are 3 bedrooms and a washroom. Old books, games and photos are found throughout the home, each donated by the families of original colonists.

I really appreciated the opportunity to look back into what life may have been like in my own town +70 years ago. The proprietor was full of humorous and interesting stories of life back then. She was just three when her family moved here. It was really neat to hear first-person what that life was like, and how people lived.

I definitely encourage you to go and visit the Colony House Museum. It’s worth far more than just $2 dollars; it’s our history, our heritage.

Photo 1 is a plaque recognizing Palmer’s outstanding seniors, class of ’38. Photo 2 is a nurse’s uniform worn by one of the nurses at the first clinic in Palmer. Photo 3 is of the Colony House’s kitchen. Photo 4 is of the child’s room. All photos are expandable if clicked on.

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