We drove about 25 miles up to the Independence Mine State Historical Park today. Several buildings remain from this mine where gold was discovered in 1906 by Robert Lee Hatcher. Don saw this on his Alaska trip in 2003, and is still astonished by the fact that one man picked this particular mountain and discovered gold.
At its peak, the mine employed 204 men and operated year-round. Married men were allowed to build houses in what became known as “Boomtown.”
Several of these small houses are now crumbling.
Unmarried men lived in bunkhouses.
General Manager Walter Stoll had “the Big House” built for his family in 1939. It was distinctive for its size, the red color of the roof, and the conveniences included. It had hot water, a refrigerator, an electric range and a washing machine. “Big Walt” was a popular manager and the workers didn’t mind that he and his family lived in much greater comfort than they did. The house now serves as the Visitor Center.
However, the building was closed today. In fact, the park was closed, and it turned out that we came in when one of the staff members mistakenly left the gate open. When we drove back down the hill, we found ourselves locked in!
I checked the lock to be sure it wasn’t just latched, then we started to turn around and go back up to find some staff to let us out. A couple of employees came down the road about that time, and explained to us that we shouldn’t have been able to get in.
We want to go kayaking while we’re here, weather permitting, but I don’t think it will be in the Little Susitna River!
Unlike this brave guy on a poster, we’re not white-water kayakers!
After a tasty lunch at the ‘best Mexican Restaurant in Palmer’ (also the only one), we visited the Visitor Information Center and watched a movie about the establishment of Palmer under the New Deal resettlement project from 1935 sponsored by the Roosevelt Administration. Families from Wisconsin and Minnesota, primarily, were recruited to move to Palmer and build farms.
We then toured the Colony House Museum, one of the original homes from that project. Click on the link for more information on this chapter of our nation’s history.
The house was in pretty rough condition before its restoration.
Here are some photos from the interior of the house, furnished as it might have been in 1935.
The family that brought this piano with them to Palmer packed their clothing inside it to keep its inner workings intact during the long trip. It was recently tuned and still plays beautifully. What a unique suitcase!
Notice the shipping crate being used as a chest in the children’s room.
Two bedrooms were downstairs, and another upstairs.
Water and electricity were added at some point, but were not included in the original building.
While driving around today, Don slid back the inside cover of the sunroof in our Honda CR-V. We were horrified to discover that it has shattered!
We’re not sure when or how it happened, but it wasn’t like that on Sunday in Valdez. We remember that we heard a strange rattle and thought it might be one of the kayaks or the roof rack. Don slid back the cover then to check on it, and the glass was clear. So the break must have happened yesterday, probably while we were towing it behind the motorhome. How it happened is still a mystery.
We’ve taken steps to get the sunroof replaced through our insurance, although it might cost less than the $500 deductible. In the meantime, Don put a protective cover over it, with a little help from our friend Dennis.
Don’s standing on a stool – Dennis isn’t really *that* short!
A little duct tape can’t hurt.
It’s just another example of the many ways that RVers must be prepared to deal with surprises and challenges in our pursuit of adventures. We’ll continue on to explore Palmer-Wasilla and Anchorage for the next several days, then return to Anchorage for the sunroof replacement when the part comes in, since it’s not likely to reach us before we leave the area.