Seldovia has been used by Indians and Eskimos as a camping spot since at least the 15th century, but its modern history began in the late 1800′s. In 1852, Russian captain Mikail Teben’kov named the bay Zaliv Seldevoye, meaning Herring Bay. Russians and Natives settled here by the 1870′s, engaged in fur hunting and trading. They built St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church in 1891, and it drew the community of blended cultures together. Restored in 1981, it still stands proudly overlooking the harbor.
During the turn-of-the-century gold rush to the Interior and McKinley districts, Seldovia flourished as the gateway port for north-bound fortune seekers. Steamships from Seattle landed at Seward and their passengers transferred to smaller steamers for the trip to Seldovia, Cook Inlet’s year round ice free port. Seldovia based inlet steamers carried passengers North to the mouths of the Yentna, Skwenta, and Susitna rivers where they could engage river boats to ferry them to the gold fields.
A herring boom in the 1920′s brought Scandinavians to town, and they stayed on to fish salmon, halibut and crab over the next four decades. During Seldovia’s fishing heyday, as many as five canneries operated here, and scores of fishermen salted barrels of herring. A wooden boardwalk was built along the waterfront in 1931 to facilitate travel through town. Businesses in buildings set on pilings over the water flourished along the intimate wooden walkway, and Seldovia became known up and down the Inlet as “the boardwalk town”.
The 1964 Earthquake changed Seldovia forever. The land mass here subsided four feet, and allowed the high tides to wash over the boardwalk and flood its buildings. A Federal Urban Renewal project tore down most of the waterfront community, and reshaped the sloping foothills so Seldovia could be built on solid ground. The charm of old Seldovia is still retained in a section of remaining boardwalk along the Seldovia Slough.
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