2014 Alaska State Fair

Northern Light Media was at the Alaska State Fair again in August and September, 2014, once again in the beautiful Wineck Colony Barn!

The Wineck barn, as lovely as ever!

The Wineck barn, as lovely as ever!


This year Northern Light Media had two additional books for sale, sharing the history behind the 1935 Matanuska Colony.

This year Northern Light Media had two additional books for sale, sharing the history behind the 1935 Matanuska Colony.


Interior and exterior details of the barns, and tools such as a hay hook, a pulley for lifting bales and feed sacks into the hayloft, a lantern and more were popular with visitors!

Interior and exterior details of the barns, and tools such as a hay hook, a pulley for lifting bales and feed sacks into the hayloft, a lantern and more.


A closer look at the old hay hook and the wooden pulley.

A closer look at the old hay hook and the wooden pulley.

Historic photos of the Wineck tract with the barn in its original location.

Historic photos of the Wineck tract with the barn in its original location.


A poster for the Colony Barns book, and all three books on display.

A poster for the Colony Barns book, and all three books on display.


A rainbow over the Wineck barn - what a lovely way to end a day at the Fair!

A rainbow over the Wineck barn – what a lovely way to end a day at the Fair!

 

Filming Barns for KTVA

Lauren interviews Barbara while John films

Lauren interviews Barbara while John films

Lauren Maxwell of KTVA Channel 11 News contacted me a week or so ago about doing a news feature on the barns and my book. So yesterday I met her and her cameraman, John Thain, in Palmer, and we did some filming and interviews for a short clip segment which will be airing at 6 and 10 pm tomorrow (Thursday, June 13), and will be available to view on their website anytime. UPDATE: The video clip is available at this link.

Our first stop was to see my friend Barbara Hecker, who shared her grandfather’s old Colony barn, now owned by Dr. and Mrs. Vaughn Gardener. Originally built for the Earl Barry family in 1936, this barn was purchased by Barbara’s grandparents, Earl and Kathreen Hecker, in the early 1940’s, when the Barry family left the Colony Project and purchased the Bogard homestead on Finger Lake. In 1948 Barbara’s parents, William and Bergie Hecker, took over the farm and turned it into a Grade A dairy. The Gardeners purchased the farm from Barbara’s parents in 1989, and in 2012 they renovated the barn, revealing the original logs. They straightened and strengthened the walls, added a new steel roof, painted the whole barn and added classic red and white barn doors.

The barn cat watching

In the Foreword for my book Barbara wrote, “My family’s big red Colony barn was my first cathedral, arching heavenward, mimicking the embracing mountains. It served as both playground and workplace. I knew where the barn cats hid their newborn litters. Calves were my pets and playmates. I sprawled undetected (or so I thought), reading my stash of books, soaking in both sun and sunset.”

It was interesting to visit the old barn and listen as Lauren interviewed Barbara about her family’s history. A barn cat appeared in the haymow, sunning herself, while the Gardener’s border collie, Daisy, earnestly tried to direct our attention to the ball she loves chasing. Barbara talked about the newly-revealed logs with their tiny bug tracks, showed us the milking parlor addition and explained how her father’s cows would enter in the proper order, each cow moving to their own milking station, and when the milking was completed they would back out of the stanchion and return to the pasture, somehow knowing just what to do and when to do it.

A fine Colony barn in a beautiful setting

We talked about the growth and development which has happened since Barbara’s parents and grandparents farmed the land, and Lauren asked Barbara if it was hard to live close by, seeing her family’s barn every day, and watching the changes happen, such as the nearby subdivisions. Barbara explained that the life of a dairy farmer was never easy, and sale of the land brought a welcome influx of cash to her family. She philosophically considered it just part of the natural progression, and said there were benefits to having things easier, even if it meant having a motorhome parked in the middle of her awesome view of Pioneer Peak.

muskoxbarnOur next stop was the Musk Ox Farm, where the barn originally built for the William Lentz family is now the Farm’s gift shop and museum. A long low building next to the barn was probably the milking parlor when it became a dairy in the 1940’s.

Executive Director Mark Austin shared some interesting facts about these Ice Age mammals. After a brief interview with him, we walked a trail between the pastures to a good vantage point for filming the barn and Lauren did a short interview with me about my reasons for writing the book and what I enjoyed about the process. My easy answer was that it was the people I’ve met while researching the barns. While my original thought was to make this merely a picture book showing the beauty of these old structures, it very quickly became apparent to me that the history of the 1935 Colony Project was such an intrinsic part of the barns that it needed to also be part of my book. So what had begun as a photographic journey turned into a research project, and that led me to dozens of people who have since become good friends.

babiesMark pointed out that there were seven new baby Musk Oxen this year, and we enjoyed watching them frolic amongst their mamas in the adjacent field. We found tufts of qiviut, the fine wool shed by the musk oxen in the spring, and marveled at the silky softness of it. We talked about the history of the Colony Project, and how the barns played into that history, and I explained that there were two Lentz families in the Colony; William’s brother Joe also had a dairy, in the Bodenburg Butte area.

McKinleyfromEastOur final stop was the original Lloyd Bell barn, later owned by Doc McKinley, but now slowly collapsing into itself. We spent a fascinating hour or so listening to stories by the current owner, Pegge McDonald. She told us Doc McKinley was a dentist, known as the Flying Doctor, and she’d been in Cordova when he would fly into town, set up his equipment, and do exams and work on all the children in town. And then she saw him do the same thing one time in Nome… She told us about his wife, who didn’t want her cows to be cold in the wintertime, so a basement was dug under the barn, and a fireplace built so the cows could be kept warm when they temperatures dipped. The huge cement block chimney can still be seen rising through the roof of the great structure.

ButtePhotoPegge brought out a book and shared it with us, a 1960’s National Geographic hardback titled ‘Alaska,’ which featured a two-page aerial photograph of her farm, with the barn standing proudly upright. She told us Doc McKinley would hold dances for the local teenagers in his huge living room, and explained that he had the tremendous rock fireplace built of rocks hauled by local teenage boys who were courting his daughters, while the construction was done by a European stonemason boarding with him. We enjoyed listening to Pegge’s tales, and assured we’d be returning to hear more sometime. Another barn’s history discovered, and another new friend.

Parks/Archer Barn

The Parks/Archer barn is a familiar landmark in the Bodenburg Loop Road area, being two Colony barns placed end-to-end. In this photo the barn on the left is the Parks barn, built on tract no. 189, and the barn on the right is the Archer barn, moved from tract no. 193. (Photos by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

The Parks/Archer barn is a familiar landmark in the Bodenburg Loop Road area, being two Colony barns placed end-to-end. In this photo the barn on the left is the Parks barn, built on tract no. 189, and the barn on the right is the Archer barn, moved from tract no. 193. (Photos by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

The Parks and Archer barns were built on adjoining 80 acre tracts, numbers 189 and 193, respectively. Lynn Sandvik explained to the author, “They moved the Archer barn north and put them together and did quite a bit of work on them about 20 years ago, for some kind of centennial something, but then they forgot about them again.”

In a letter to the author, Valley historian Jim Fox related a little of the Parks family history from an interview with daughter Bonita Parks Strong: “Many of the farmers in the Butte had sheep, selling their wool to Pendleton in Washington or Minnesota woolen mills, often getting blankets and winter clothes in exchange along with some cash. The Parks family had a big flock which they drove up into the mountains to the north in the summer, an 18 to 20 mile trip…”

In front of the Archer barn, the Parks barn can be seen in the distance, along with Bodenburg Butte. Glen Archer’s great grandmother Lillian Post wrote near it, “Perle Archer thinks he can handle his big bull. One day it took many to handle him.”

In front of the Archer barn, the Parks barn can be seen in the distance, along with Bodenburg Butte. Glen Archer’s great grandmother Lillian Post wrote near it, “Perle Archer thinks he can handle his big bull. One day it took many to handle him.”

Glen Archer, a grandson of Colonists Perle and Dorothy Archer, wrote to the author, “My sister and I grew up listening to our father, Floyd Archer, tell stories about growing up in the Matanuska Valley and homesteading there and how his parents, Perle and Dorothy Archer, moved the family from Wisconsin to Alaska. He was only 18 months old… there were six children including my father in the family. My father still has lots of memories of life in Alaska, going to school, playing with the Colony kids, and all the hard work and long winters.”

The barn in the foreground is the Otto Peterson barn, the one in the center of the photo would be the Archer barn. The Parks barn was just out of the photo on the left side.

The barn in the foreground is the Otto Peterson barn, the one in the center of the photo would be the Archer barn. The Parks barn was just out of the photo on the left side.

“About 12 years ago, I inherited from my father the old family album filled with pictures of the homestead and family in Alaska.  Among the pictures is a picture of the Archer barn, more pictures of the chicken coop, farm animals, the fields, as well as the house.  All of the pictures appear to have  been  taken  by  my  great grandparents (Dorothy’s parents) during their trip to visit Perle, Dorothy and the six kids, in 1939, which would have been well after Perle and Dorothy were selected as part of the 200 plus families and moved to Palmer.”

In another letter to the author and friends, Glen Archer shared some of the family history after a visit with his father: “Dad said yesterday that the original house was a nice fairly large two story log house which had a full basement. It had been insulated with what he remembers as oakum, which he described as fibers saturated with a tar like substance. Somehow, two or three years after being built, his older siblings Betty and Bob one day caught the insulation on fire and the house burned to the ground. Dad said that grandpa (Perle) was very sad about the whole experience as he had really put his heart and soul into building that place and was proud of it. According to Dad, Grandpa was one of the few individuals who truly knew how to build and taught others to build. He was a general contractor for decades after they returned to the states. Grandpa also apparently started a sawmill which employed others so they could have access to milled lumber and was instrumental in building Fort Richardson.”

Parks/Archer barn. Photo by Stewart Amgwert, Wasilla.

Parks/Archer barn. Photo by Stewart Amgwert, Wasilla.

This post is an excerpt from the new book The Matanuska Colony Barns, by Helen Hegener, published by Northern Light Media, May 2013.

Map of Barn Locations

This map, which is similar to one which appears in the book, The Matanuska Colony Barns, shows the approximate locations of most of the remaining Colony barns. Adapted from an original map of the Colony tracts, which can be seen as 40 and 80-acre delineations, this map shows the roads as they existed circa 1935, rather than today’s highways and side roads. In the book the locations are notated and cross-referenced with each barn described in the book (a few barns located here do not appear in the book).

BarnsStarredMap

A few notes about the  locations, shown as stars on this map: All locations are approximate. The Larsh-Wilson barn, which later became the Linn-Breeden barn and was moved to the Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry (MATI) north of Wasilla, is shown in its original location, as the current location is off the map. The Ed Wineck barn, which was moved to the Alaska State Fairgrounds in 1976, is shown in both the original location near Bodenburg Butte and at the fairgrounds. Various other barns are shown where they are now, but their original locations may be miles from there; a surprising number of these huge structures have been moved around the Valley for one reason or another. Sometimes, as with the Bailey and Loyer barns, they’ve only moved a few hundred feet from where they were built in 1936. Most of the barns are visible from public roads, but please remember to be courteous when visiting and always respect private property signs. The map was created by Helen Hegener. ©2013 Northern Light Media, all rights reserved.

Barn Perspectives

Ferber Bailey barn, on original Colony tract number 152, at Moffit Road and the Glenn Highway, as seen from across the hayfields on the west end of Scott Road. The house is the original Colony house built in 1935.

The Virgil Eckert barn, one of the few barrel vault roofed barns, has been transformed into a home. It is on the original tract number 100, just south of Scott Road and the Glenn Highway.

The Virgil Eckert barn, one of the few barrel vault roofed barns, has been transformed into a home. It is on the original tract number 100, just south of Scott Road and the Glenn Highway.

The Ising-Dredseth double barn on Wes Grover's farm on the southeast end of Outer Springer Loop Road, as seen from across his hayfield to the west.

The Ising-Dregseth double barn on Wes Grover’s farm on the southeast end of Outer Springer Loop Road, as seen from across his hayfield to the west. Wes Grover also owns the Venne original Colony barn.

Loyer-Lake barn, original tract no. 62, on Outer Springer Loop Road, as seen from Robley Street.

Loyer-Lake barn, original tract no. 62, on Outer Springer Loop Road, as seen from Robley Street.

 

Raymond Griese barn, tract number 77, Outer Springer Loop Road

Raymond Griese barn, tract number 77, Outer Springer Loop Road

 

DePriest barn on Outer Springer Loop Road, note the addition/extension to accommodate the unusual side-entry doorway.

DePriest barn on Outer Springer Loop Road, note the addition/extension to accommodate the unusual side-entry doorway.

 

 

More Barn Photos

Earl Wineck barn, originally on tract no. 174 near Bodenburg Butte, now at the Alaska State Fairgrounds near Palmer. Photo by Eric Vercammen/Northern Light Media

Earl Wineck barn, originally on tract no. 174 near Bodenburg Butte, now at the Alaska State Fairgrounds near Palmer. Photo by Eric Vercammen/Northern Light Media

Arnold Havemeister barn on tract no. 167, on Bogard Road, east of Wasilla. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media

Arnold Havemeister barn on tract no. 167, on Bogard Road, east of Wasilla. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media

Lawrence Arndt barn on tract No. 190, Palmer-Wasilla Highway, west of Palmer. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media

Lawrence Arndt barn on tract No. 190, Palmer-Wasilla Highway, west of Palmer. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media

Larsh-Wilson barn, originally on tracts no. 31 and 32, now at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, Wasilla. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media

Larsh-Wilson barn, originally on tracts no. 31 and 32, now at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, Wasilla. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media

Leonard Bergan barn, tract no. 181, Bodenburg Loop Road, southeast of Palmer. Photo by Albert Marquez/Planet Earth Adventures

Leonard Bergan barn, tract no. 181, Bodenburg Loop Road, southeast of Palmer. Photo by Albert Marquez/Planet Earth Adventures

Lloyd Bell barn, tract no. 195, Doc McKenzie Road and Bodenburg Loop Road, southeast of Palmer. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media

Lloyd Bell barn, tract no. 195, Doc McKenzie Road and Bodenburg Loop Road, southeast of Palmer. Photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media