courtesy of Janet Klein
Klein, Janet R. Celebrating Homer's Buildings Homer: Kachemak Country Publications, 2002
One of the largest, most architecturally interesting houses is the former residence of Sam and Vega Pratt near the west end of Pioneer Ave. The couple began married life in 1936 and Sam soon designed and created working drawings for their home. Construction, with
spruce lumber milled at Hugh Watson's place, began soon after the Pratts purchased two acres from Maybelle Berry in September 1939.
A substantial one-and-a-half story rectangular frame structure, the house originally had four bays formed by an open gable entry with shingled balustrade and three double-hung windows, six panes over one pane, set in wide frames. An imposing dormer with two matching windows and a wide gable roof rises above the entry. A second dormer and an extended hip-roofed arctic entry are elements of the rear facade.
Interior detailing was carefully designed and executed by Sam Pratt. Unique features existed throughout including a custom-built telephone seat and, in the living room, built-in bookcases with curved tops. An arched doorway led to the dining room. Curtain rods were held by hand-carved brackets and a handcrafted mantle hung on the north wall in 1986.
A flat-roofed, first floor addition on the south was built by the Pratts about 1941. Large picture windows, to take advantage of the sunlight and from which to view their extensive gardens, enhanced the new living room. Upon completion of the addition, the original living room became studio space for the artists.
Large trees and extensive landscaping still provide a beautiful setting for the Pratt house. The driveway, which curved behind it, accessed a frame barn and garage, chicken coop and workshop in 1986. In the basement, a small Pelton wheel generated electricity from Woodard Creek.
"Vega's House," a one-story frame, gable roofed retail shop nearby, was built by the Pratts in 1947. It functioned as a commercial outlet for local artists and remained a craft cottage for years. Today it is a comfortable coffee shop, Expresso Express.
Sam and Vega Pratt were very active in the development of community organizations. Many originated in their spacious home in the 1940s. Sam was a fervent collector and dreamed of a museum in Homer. To help establish it, he and Vega started the Homer Society of Natural History and eventually donated the land on which the Museum was built in 1968-69. At the time of his death in 1974, Sam was the curator of the Homer Museum. Years later, it was renamed the Pratt Museum to honor the couple.
Vega Pratt sold their Pioneer Ave home in 1983. She remained active in the community and continued gardening and working in a cannery. She died in 2002, the last child of Gustav and Mary Anderson who had moved to Homer in 1924.
The people who purchased the Pratt house in 1983 respected its architectural integrity and maintained and renovated some original fixtures and hardware. The second floor with its striking octagonal corner bay was added in 1984 along with the boardwalk and open deck with chamfered 2 x 4 posts and railing. The flat-roofed enclosed entry was changed to a gable roof to match the original entry.
The Pratt house has had several owners and has undergone more alterations. In the 1990s it functioned as a bed an breakfast then, later, as a youth hostel. In 2002, it was sold again. The current owner plans to keep it a backpacker hostel but hopes to re-expose the original arched doorway and built-in bookshelves that were covered by a previous owner.
During the 1986 survey, the weight, rhythm and massing of the house created a unified structure. With its blue paint and bright white trim, the house fairly sparkled.
304 West Pioneer Avenue
Homer, Alaska 99603