City prioritizes preservation of historic buildings

The Agricultural Experiment Station Barn on Egan Way was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

The City Council made the preservation of historic buildings a priority when they voted to establish a Historic Preservation Commission at a regular meeting on Thursday. 

Remnants of Kodiak’s colorful past can still be seen in the walls of its many historic buildings, from canneries and churches to bars and even a barn that dates back to the early 1900s. 

If the council passes the ordinance at the next regular meeting, the city of Kodiak will become a certified local government that identifies preservation of such buildings as a priority in the community. 

Being a certified local government would allow the city to apply for grant funds and other resources to potentially be used for the maintenance of historic buildings on city property, said Deputy City Manager Josie Bahnke. 

The city would partner with local museums, the state Historic Preservation Office and the federal National Park Service to help preserve these relics of the past. 

“Adoption of this ordinance to establish a Historic Preservation Commission and participate in the Certified Local Government Program demonstrates local commitment to saving what is important from the past for future generations, and opens doors to funding, technical assistance and other preservation successes,” Bahnke said. 

The city would also enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Kodiak Historical Society, which states that the nonprofit will provide administrative support to the commission. 

The seven-member commission — which will be chosen after the ordinance passes — is required to meet a minimum of two times per year. 

The city has already begun working to preserve one of the oldest buildings in the city, a Wisconsin dairy farm-style barn located next to the Kodiak Public Library. The city is working with ECI Architects to stabilize and make improvements to the building for possible future use. 

The barn was part of the Agricultural Experiment Station and dates back to the early 1900s. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. 

According to an initial proposal of services, the cost of pre-design work, such as identifying necessary repairs to stabilize the building and upgrades, could amount to $26,000, with work conducted from July through September. 

As recorded in the National Register of Historic Documents, the barn was built in 1922 in the style of Wisconsin dairy barns.

It was originally one of several buildings making up the Agricultural Experiment Station located at the edge of town and surrounded by fenced pastures and meadows. The goal of the station was to experiment with raising cattle in coastal Alaska. 

The station disbanded in 1931 due to lack of funding and after many cattle and sheep suffocated from ash following the Mount Novarupta volcanic eruption near Katmai, according to documents in the National Register of Historic Documents. In previous years, there had also been issues with bears eating the farm animals. 

The building was then used for a multitude of purposes over the years, including use as a basketball court and for storage, according to the documents. 

In 2002 the Kodiak Police Department, Drug Enforcement Unit, used the first floor, while city records were stored on the second floor of the barn. 

Councilor Charlie Davidson has been a part of the barn stabilization project since its inception. At a meeting earlier this year, he said he would like to see it used as a community gathering place. 

Councilor Terry Haines has also been vocal about preserving the barn. 

“There is definitely some work that needs to be done to keep it from falling over. This is a historic building that we shouldn’t let go,” Haines said at the meeting. 

City of Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson agreed with the importance of these historic places and preserving the building for the community. 

“This is our opportunity to really have that be more prominent with the historical fixtures that we have and who we are. It's a good opportunity and a long time coming,” she said. 

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