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.


Arndt/Swift Barn

The Arndt barn still stands alongside the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. (photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

The Arndt barn still stands alongside the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. (photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

The Lawrence Arndt family came to Alaska from Wisconsin, and Mr. Arndt drew tract number 190, on what was then called the Wasilla-Finger Lake-Palmer Road, today known as the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. The 1940 census showed Mr. Arndt living with his wife Etta, their 18-year-old daughter Helen; his mother Emma Arndt, and three male lodgers: Edward Church, and Glenn and Rollo Kinty. 

The unusual Arndt barn was one of the handful of barns which had a soaring vaulted roof design, with a high ridge peak, quite different from the standard 32′ x 32′ gambrel roof design of most of the Colonist’s barns. Also known as the curved or Gothic roof, the curvature was built up of boards bent to the desired radius and nailed together to provide adequate strength to support the huge roof structure. Like the standard Colony barns, the bottom section was built with three-sided logs, set on spruce pilings. The inside of the barn was partitioned into areas of various sizes, and a storeroom under the steep stairwell which accessed the hayloft.

Inside the Arndt barn (photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

Inside the Arndt barn (photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

The Manuska-Susitna Borough’s 1985 book, Knik Matanuska Susitna: A Visual History of the Valleys, noted: “The Lawrence Arndt colony farm has been familiar to Valley residents for years as Arabian Acres where owners Robert and Gladys Swift raised purebred Morgan horses. The colony barn was especially designed like the Monroe, Eckert, and Puhl barns, with a high vaulted roof that varied from the standard colony gambrel. During the colony era, the Arndt house was the site of the neighborhood telephone.”

Kathy (Roark) Laing, who lived for several years on the adjoining farm with a similar vault roofed barn, wrote that she remembered there being “…three farms in a row…”    ~•~


Matanuska Colony Barns Art

The Earl Wineck barn, originally built near Bodenburg Butte, is a landmark feature at the Alaska State Fairgrounds. Image by Susan Patch from a photograph by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media.

The Earl Wineck barn, originally built near Bodenburg Butte, is a landmark feature at the Alaska State Fairgrounds. 

The beautifully photogenic Matanuska Colony barns lend themselves well to artistic expression, and a series of barn images, created by Susan Patch from photos which will appear in the forthcoming book, The Matanuska Colony Barns, are available online at Fine Art America

Six barn designs are currently available: the Wineck barn at the Alaska State Fairgrounds; the Bailey barn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places; the Venne barn, which is part of the RG Farm on the Outer Springer Loop Road; the Greise barn on the Springer System; the Barry barn on Campbell Road; and the Breeden barn at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, north of Wasilla. More Colony barn images will soon be added to the series. takes care of the printing, framing, matting, packaging, shipping, and delivers “ready-to-hang” artwork. Each image is also available on greeting cards. Take a few minutes to browse the beautiful images!

A Brief History of Alaskan Barns


Adapted from the forthcoming book, Matanuska Colony Barns:

Dog Barns

James Taylor Dog Barn, Yukon River, Opposite 4th of July Creek, Eagle (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS AK 19-EGL.V,3-B–1)

The first shelters for animals in Alaska were likely the small crudely-built dog barns for the passenger, freight, and mail dogteams which traveled the winter trails. When staying in one place for a length of time, dog drivers would construct rough canvas tents for their teams, and many owners built dog barns to house their weary dogs in more comfort at home. In Buildings of Alaska, Alison Hoagland describes a dog barn built by James Taylor, “a miner turned trapper who built himself an intricate set of buildings on the north side of the Yukon River, probably in about 1924.”

Hoagland detailed the dog barn which Taylor built for his team: “The dog barn, a low cabin with saddle-notched log walls, has six stalls with vertical-pole walls. Each stall has its own door, operable by an outside lever. Taylor also built individual doghouses out of logs and extensive vertical-pole corrals that led down to a stream.”

Ft. Egbert mule barn, Eagle. (Library of Congress, Photographs Division, HABS AK V, 1-A–3)

Not far from James Taylor’s dog barn, also on the Yukon River, one of the most impressive kennels in Alaska was built at the direction of then-Lieutenant William “Billy” Mitchell, who was at that time charged with building an extensive network of telegraph and cable lines that would link Alaska to the rest of the world. The Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS) would connect Fort Liscum in Valdez to other forts along the Yukon River: Fort Egbert at Eagle City, Fort Gibbon at Tanana, and St. Michael on the Bering Sea coast.

To accomplish this mission Billy Mitchell, who would later gain a Major General’s stars and earn fame and controversy as the “father of the U.S. Air Force,” bought 80 huskies, 40 sets of harnesses and 16 sleds. To house the huskies Mitchell had 19 sled dog kennels added to the south side of the mule barn. In June, 1903, Lt. Mitchell’s crews completed construction of the first telegraph line to span the interior of Alaska.

Interior Ft. Egbert mule barn, Eagle. (Lib. of Congress, Photographs Div., HABS AK V, 1-A–7)

According to the booklet Eagle-Fort Egbert: A Remnant of the Past, produced through the cooperative efforts of the Bureau of Land Management and the Eagle Historical Society & Museums, the first floor of the mule barn, or quartermaster stables, was completed prior to May 1900 at a cost of $550 for materials. It housed 53 animals. Some of the mules’ names hang above the stall doors. The hay loft was built in 1901. The barn was used until 1911. Today it contains exhibits from the past: a blacksmith area, sickbay stall, mule harnesses and hardware, old wagons, mining and agriculture memorabilia, boats and dog sleds.

Nenana: Substantial Buildings

The name Nenana means “a good place to camp between the rivers,” and before that name it was known as Toghotthele, which means, “the hill next to the river.” According to Alison K. Hoagland’s Buildings of Alaska: “At the turn of the twentieth century, Nenana was an Athapaskan Indian village. James Duke set up a trading post here in 1903, and Nenana’s history would have been unexceptional if it had not been for the Alaska Railroad. With a strategic location at the confluence of the Tanana and Nenana rivers, Nenana was originally intended as a construction camp where materials to build the railroad to the south could be unloaded from steamboats. The Alaska Engineering Commission built some substantial buildings…”

A.E.C. (Alaska Engineering Commission) stable and barn in Nenana, June 27, 1917. Signs above the door: “No Smoking” and “Barn No. 1.” Caption: “No. 53. A. J. Johnson, Official photographer, A. E. C.” (Albert Johnson Collection, 1905-1917 UAF-1989-166-626 Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks)

Among those “substantial buildings,” which included dormitories, a cafeteria, a hospital and others, was the A.E.C. stable and barn, a two-story log-and-frame structure known as the Headquarters Barn and Stables. Unfortunately, like almost all of the A.E.C. buildings, it no longer survives,  and photos of the building are rare.

Nenana is once again a quiet place, described by one author as “…a town straight out of a Mark Twain novel: a sleepy, dusty riverside barge stop. Riverboats, in fact, still load with cargo for villages up and down the nearby Tanana River.”

Fairbanks: Creamer’s Dairy

Shortly after the turn of the century, Charles Hinckley and his wife Belle brought three cows and some horses up the Yukon and Tanana Rivers by sternwheeler, and they started a dairy to serve the gold-rich outpost of Fairbanks. In 1928, the Hinckleys sold the dairy to Charles and Anna Creamer; Charles was the son of close friends living nearby, and Anna was Belle Hinckley’s younger sister.

Creamer’s Field barn in Fairbanks. (Photographer- Harpyr)

The new owners named it Creamer’s Dairy, and during the 1930s and 1940s, the Creamers worked hard to modernize and expand the business. They built two large Louden barns, designed by the Louden Machinery Co. of Iowa, which still give Creamer’s its distinctive visual appeal. The larger barn cost $13,700, more than the entire dairy had been worth ten years earlier. The hayloft held 165 tons of hay, enough to feed 55 cows through the winter. In 1938 the Creamers threw a huge dance and invited the whole town to celebrate the opening of the new barn and its state-of-the-art equipment. According to a report in the News-Miner the next day, nearly everyone in Fairbanks attended.

The dairy thrived throughout the next few decades, and when it finally ceased production in 1966 it was the largest and most successful dairy in Interior Alaska. The town of Fairbanks lobbied the state to purchase the entire dairy and 1,800 acres of land, which has since become the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, under the supervision of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The structures are the only surviving pioneer dairy buildings in Interior Alaska, and in 1977 they were admitted to the National Register of Historic Places.

Science-Based Farm Research

In most parts of Alaska barns were few and far between, but as the land grew more settled, more barns were built to shelter valuable livestock and equipment, and to store feed.

Archives, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Agricultural Experiment Station Photograph Collection, Image no. uaf1968000400926

The Hatch Act of 1887 authorized agricultural experiment stations in the United States and its territories to provide science-based research information to farmers. In 1898 the federal government established the first Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations in Sitka and Kodiak, and stations in Kenai, Rampart, Copper Center, and Fairbanks followed quickly.

In 1917 the Alaska Agricultural Experiment Station was established at Matanuska when M.D. Snodgrass selected 240 acres for the site on the recommendation of the Alaska Engineering Commission. In 1923, at a meeting at the farm, the Matanuska Valley Settlers Association was created to reduce freight shipping rates to the Valley.

In 1931 the federal government transferred ownership of all experiment station facilities to the College of Agriculture and Mines in Fairbanks, which was renamed the University of Alaska in 1935. As population centers shifted, goals and objectives for agricultural research changed and the stations at Copper Center, Kenai, Rampart, Kodiak, and Sitka were closed.

“There are many persons who are happier in a simple existence, living largely through their own efforts in a self-sufficient way… We had it once in America, and there are those who feel we lost something valuable in our departure from it…”   -Rexford G. Tugwell, agricultural economist for Roosevelt’s New Deal

Photography by Albert Marquez


When my friend Albert Marquez, of Planet Earth Adventures LLC, offered to shoot photos of some of the Colony barns for me I knew his work would be first-rate, but I didn’t expect the incredible perspectives and amazing colors he captured. His kind and generous efforts comprise a spectacular visual addition to the forthcoming book:

Wineck Barn

The Wineck barn in winter (photo by Eric Vercammen/Northern Light Media)


Ed Wineck was one of the original pioneers of the Matanuska Valley, pre-dating the Colonist families. In 1936, after some of the original Colonists left, Ed became a replacement Colonist, and was given tract no. 174 near Bodenburg Butte, where he supervised the construction of homes and barns for neighboring families. Ed Wineck and his wife Emma farmed for over 40 years, starting the Valley’s first poultry farm in 1937.

Wineck barn shortly after being moved to the Alaska State Fairgrounds (Library of Congress Photographs Division HABS AK 13-PALM, V, 3A-1)

In 1975 the Winecks donated their barn to the Alaska State Fair, but the barn was too wide to pass through either of the narrow steel bridges across the Knik and Matanuska Rivers. It was not until the new Knik River Bridge was built in 1976 that the barn could be moved  down the Old Glenn Highway to the Parks Highway, across the Palmer Hayflats and back up the new Glenn Highway to the Fairgrounds. The classic gambrel-roofed Colony barn is now a major feature of the Alaska State Fair,  showcasing the Matanuska Colony Project and surrounded by beautiful gardens and flower displays each year.



Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, 3800 W. Museum Dr, Wasilla 

At the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, June, 2012 (photo by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

The large double barn at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry (MATI) is known locally as the Breeden barn, but it was actually created from two separate Colony barns by an early Valley homesteader named Frank Linn, whose son Allan grew up to be the State Director of Agriculture from 1975 to 1979.

Frank Linn came to Alaska in 1927 and spent three years working at the Matanuska Experiment Station. In 1928 he purchased 160 prime acres on the southern border of the Station, on a bluff with a commanding view of Pioneer Peak and the Chugach Mountains. In 1935 he sold his land to the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation (ARRC) for $5.09 an acre. Colonist Amedee Wilson won the choice tract in the original drawing, but in 1937 Amedee, his wife Leah, and their four children left Alaska.

Kelley Griffin and Ralph Breeden at Breeden’s farm, circa 1975 (photo courtesy of Kelley Griffin)

Frank and Vera Linn acquired the tract again in 1938, and in 1941 they added the neighboring tract, which had been won by Emil Larsh. The Linn family developed a dairy farm, and in 1943 they moved the Larsh barn adjacent to the Wilson barn at a right angle, creating the immense 85-foot-long by 28-foot-wide structure.

In 1957, Anchorage dairy farmers Don and LaVera Breeden purchased the Linn dairy and in 1958 they moved their operation to the Matanuska Valley. The dairy farm eventually changed into a vegetable farm, then became the Matanuska Riding Stables and Guest Ranch, and in later years the Matanuska Lake RV Park.

Interior of hay loft (photo courtesy of Ron Day)

In 2006 the Breeden family donated the barn to the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, and after all the permits, clearances, and other paperwork was in place, in the early morning hours of August 26, 2007, the giant structure was loaded onto a flatbed truck and moved to its new home. There is a wonderful photo by Robert DeBerry of the barn being moved through Wasilla at the Frontiersman web site.