Historic Pioneer Avenue building gets facelift

• New office space for local businesses include American Titles
by Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda

The historic square building at 265 Pioneer Avenue undergoes yet another incarnation after a colorful Cold War era past in its new function serving businesses.
Pauli and Harmon Hall purchased the three-story building and are in the process of modernizing the interior to prepare it for multiple office rentals. The once flat roof has given way to a hip top, outside stairs were replaced and walls inside are coming down for new configurations.
The first tenant, First American Title Insurance, formerly located on Ben Walters, is moved to offices on the first floor. The Halls are letting new tenants help decide how to configure needed space.
“We’re really excited about being here,” said Mary Ann Rowe, the branch manager at American Title. She and Title Assistant Lynn Monroe are in completely refurbished offices on the floor that formerly served as the home of Stanley and Nikki Welles. Prior to that it was Pioneer Pizza – and prior to that a whole lot of Homer history.
When customers stop by, the old timers aren’t shy about giving history lessons.

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Contractor Steve Schulz completes entrance work.

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Contractor Steve Schulz completes entrance work.

Harry Feyer started construction at 265 Pioneer in 1949 and perhaps due to the complexity of his goal to make a truly solid building, it wasn’t finished until 1952. During the Cold War, Americans harbored the fear of being bombed by Russians. Harry used solid steel beam girders and extra thick walls meant to withstand a nuclear attack.
The building went through the 1964 earthquake without a single crack.
The first floor, built partially into the earth for warmth and shelter, was equipped with 440 volt-three phase electricity to provide enough extra power to operate Harry’s freezers and machine shop. The water pipes and food storage were also located there, making it the safe spot in case Alaska became a Cold War target.
The building’s third floor was leased space to the Alaska Territorial government in the ‘50s, and then to the Department of Fish and Game. Eventually, Betty Miller’s “Arctic House of Beauty,” and several others took their turn in the space.
The Koch family of Homer purchased it after the Feyer family sold it, sometime in the 1980s, and it became Nancy Koch’s B&B.
Stan and Nikki Welles purchased it in 1992, and 265 Pioneer was transformed yet again into Pioneer Pizza. They closed down the pizza parlor in 2001 but remained living in the house until this winter. The Welles hosted a variety of Alaska’s politicians, and opened their home to give the public a chance to meet and talk with Republican candidates either occupying or running for office.
Dave Becker, owner of KBAY, K-WAVE, KPEN and KGTL and long-time Homer resident, recalled the building under each of its owners, including Harry. He calls it the sturdiest construction around.
“Put your mind back to what it was like in the 1950s. He built it to standards that went way beyond homesteader standards. It is probably the best built building in town,” Becker said. “Then too, we live in a big earthquake zone. He would have wanted it to be able to withstand the earthquakes.”

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Stan and Nikki Welles, the former owners, loved to give tours of their bombshelter.

HOMER TRIBUNE/Naomi Klouda - Stan and Nikki Welles, the former owners, loved to give tours of their bombshelter.

In 2005, 265 Pioneer was featured on a cable show, “If These Walls Could Talk.” It’s downtown perch has generated continued interest and curiosity through the decades, up to the present day.
“It is a fascinating building,” the new owners say. They hired Northern Spruce Construction’s Steve Schulz to oversee the project, based on a design by Frank Cloyd. It calls for a new entrance beamed awning, cedar shake siding and an elevator installation as well as an improved parking lot.
The distinctive cubed glass entrance that has been with the building since its beginnings, however, remain in place.

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Posted by on Nov 21st, 2012 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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