The Ciechanski Hut is a piece of Soldotna Farm history

Mae Ciechanski was one of the founders of the Soldotna Historical Society and Museum.

Twenty years ago, she donated her husband’s old cabin to the society. But for a long time the hut was closed to the public, due to concerns about a chemical fire that burned the place down while her husband, Ed, was making pottery there.

Now it is open to the public indoors, joining several other homes, a former schoolhouse and a post office at the Soldotna Homestead Museum off Centennial Park Road.

“I’m telling you, we’re the best-kept secret,” said Carmen Steph, treasurer of the Soldotna Historical Society and Museum board. “I was ashamed to say that I lived in Soldotna for so long and didn’t even know it was here. Now I spend all my time here. winter here.

She said visitors to the museum were content to stare out the windows of the small log cabin that belonged to Ed Ciechanski in the 1950s. The fire marshal was worried about char on the cabin because of the fire.

But the company asked an engineer to take a look inside the cabin and said it was okay to bring visitors inside. Stephl said she was glad they did.

“And when you walk into that building — I mean, the smell,” Stephl said. “Right? Right there you go, ‘That brings you back.’ “

Ed Ciechanski was born in Ohio and came to Alaska after serving in World War II. Like many veterans, he capitalized on homestead laws and built a cabin eight miles up the Kenai River. The road now named Ciechanski Road, between Kenai and Soldotna, points to this location.

His cabin at the museum is basic, with a narrow door and entrance that leads to a main room containing a cot, a stove, and some of Ed’s woodcarvings. Stephl said he was known in part for these sculptures, as well as the strawberries he grew in his garden.

He was not known for his building skills. Stephl said he didn’t have much construction experience when he built his house in 1947, using a hatchet and handsaw to cut small logs for the cabin walls.

“You talk tough, don’t you?” But I feel like, though, that – Mae and Ed got married in 1959 – maybe she came and took a look and said, ‘I don’t think so. You are going to build me a house,” Stephl said. “And that ended up being more of his man cave later on.”

The couple moved out of the cabin and moved into another house, although Ed kept the cabin as his studio.

After Ed’s death in 1998, Mae donated the cabin to the company. It was moved to museum grounds in 1999.

“We find that with log cabins they will stay pretty strong as long as you keep them out of the water. You keep them elevated off the ground, make sure the logs don’t rot,” Stephl said. “Above that, make sure the roofing – or even if you have to put some sort of roof over them to protect them.

The company also put up interpretive panels last May with details about each cabin and the farmers who lived there.

Mae is no longer around to talk about the history of the cabin, and the Ciechanskis had no children.

But there are clues to their lives scattered around the property, from shelves of sculptures and pottery in the main museum building to a slew of artifacts in Damon Hall.

“I think it’s like a historical scavenger hunt,” Stephl said. “When you go, ‘Now where is that thing?'”

Tucked away in a filing cabinet in the building’s basement is an album full of photos of Mae — of the river, of Ed, and of the cabin, against a grove of snow-covered spruce trees.

It is one of many relics from this period in Soldotna’s history. Stephl said the society has been working on curating its collection for two years.

“The list goes on and on – who donated, who contributed. All of these items aren’t just Ed and Mae Ciechanski — there’s the Gerharts, the Littles… there’s tons of them.

Today, the Ciechanskis still contribute to the historical society through a fund. The city of Soldotna also offers a scholarship in honor of mae.

The Farm Museum, including the Ciechanski Hut, opens in June.

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