Telling Alaska’s Story: Colony House Museum in Palmer is a window into Alaska’s past

The 203 families selected for the challenge were given a $3,000, 30-year loan that entitled them to a 40-acre tract of land, a house and a barn.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 6:07 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Colony House Museum in downtown Palmer is an original colony house built in 1935 and restored after a years-long effort by the Palmer Historical Society. Although the home was owned by Oscar and Irene Beylund, it’s representative of the many homes built to occupy the original Matanuska colonists.

The colonists were part of a New Deal government agriculture program designed to give depression-era farmers from the upper Midwest a new start in the Matanuska Valley. The 203 families selected for the challenge were given a $3,000, 30-year loan that entitled them to a 40-acre tract of land, a house and a barn.

Gerry Keeling, a longtime Palmer Historical Society board member, is one of the “Colony Kids.” Keeling’s parents were colonists who came to the state in 1935 and she was born several years later in Palmer. Keeling said it was a tough life for new families, whose property mostly consisted of uncleared woods. But for the children, there was plenty of adventure.

“The children, in general, liked it a whole lot,” Keeling said. “We felt we were very lucky, and I think to this day if you were a child growing up here in the Valley in those early years, you know you were lucky.”

Today, visitors are lucky to be able to visit the colony home and take a tour. Historical Society President Sheri Hamming said they receive visitors from around the world, and sometimes from outside family members wanting to learn more about their relative’s experience in Alaska. The museum has pictures of many of the colony families and all of the furnishings and other items in the home are completely authentic.

The Colony House Museum is located at 316 E. Elmwood Ave. in Palmer. It’s open 12:00 p.m. — 4:00 p.m. Wednesday — Saturday through August 31. Year-round tours are available by appointment by calling (907) 745-1935.

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