New cabin will house remembrance of early Kenai healthcare

Nov 21, 2019

The new Kenai Bush Doctor's Historic Cabin sits next to the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. It will open to the public this summer.

In the 1960s, years before Central Peninsula Hospital and decent phone service existed on the central peninsula, residents of Kenai used to have to get themselves to a log house on Linwood Lane for medical services after clinic hours.

“People would come to the house any time day of the day or night,” said Dr. Peter Hansen. We did not have a good phone system then. And sometimes there would be several people sitting on the porch waiting to talk to the doctor or get their skin stitched up from lacerations or things like that. It was a good challenge and a bit of adventure, looking back.”

Hansen retired last year after 51 years of medical practice in Kenai, some of that time being the only doctor in the area. He stocked up a lot of memories over that time and a lot of equipment.

“Over my 50 years-plus of working privately here in a private practice, I’ve replaced all sorts of equipment at different times,” Hansen said. “I always kept the old stuff in case something broke down, something went haywire, then I could bring an old piece of equipment back in and use it until the new one got fixed.”

This summer, people in Kenai will again go to a log cabin to see a part of Doc Hansen’s practice, when the Kenai Bush Doctor’s Historic Cabin opens to the public. Hansen plans to set up displays from some of his trove of equipment.

“And this involves things like electrocardiograph machines, and breathing machines and surgical delivery table that I came with, and different kinds of orthopedic equipment that we used for setting fractures, and my complete little laboratory that developed over a period of a couple of years, and then the x-ray machine was the first fluoroscope on the Kenai Peninsula that I installed back in about 1968 or 69,” Hansen said.

Hansen sold his clinic building as part of his retirement and needed to figure out what to do with all the equipment he’s held onto, some of it he brought with him when he and his wife, Karolee, a nurse, moved to Kenai from Juneau in 1967.

He talked to the Kenai Historical Society about setting up a display in one of the cabins in Old Town Kenai, but there wasn’t enough room. So Hansen, in conjunction with the historical society, the city and Kenai Chamber and Visitors Bureau, decided to create a new space. Hansen donated the money to have a 15-by-16-foot log cabin built to house the museum. Logsmith Arnie Sullinger, in Nikiski, completed the structure and it was recently put in place on the north side of the visitors center. Next spring, they’ll add a walkway, railing and other finishing touches and Hansen will start installing the displays.

“I think people will find it interesting to look at,” Hansen said. “… And medicine is still changing. It’s very exciting for me, as a practitioner, I’m still excited about life and where we’re going with medicine in our country and our world.”

Look for the Kenai Bush Doctor’s Historic Cabin to open next summer.