Lifelong resident buys Homer landmark

A Pioneer Avenue landmark got a major remodel, a new name and a new owner late last year. On Dec. 29, the 68-year-old historic Heritage Hotel sold to third-generation Homer resident Abe Alborn.

Purchased from English Bay Corp., an Alaska Native corporation in Nanwalek, Alborn bought the building but not the name and has renamed it King’s Landing Hotel. English Bay also owns the Heritage RV Park on the Homer Spit, and wanted to keep the Heritage name for that business, Alborn said.

The owner of Excalibur Construction and the Dragon’s Den gaming center, “King’s Landing” fits in with Alborn’s naming practice.

“It seems like all my businesses have that mythological slant,” he said. “Those are the three balls I’m juggling along with five kids.”

The name also means “the landing of a king,” Alborn said. “A king salmon.”

Alborn bought King’s Landing through work Excalibur Construction had done for English Bay, including a remodel of the English Bay Trading Post in Nanwalek. He also had done work on the hotel.

English Bay had been wanting to get out of the hotel business, and one day while at the hotel, Abe said the former manager, Charlene Wilkins, said in passing, “Hey, you want to buy a hotel?”

Abe said yes, thinking she was joking, but a few weeks later Wilkins told him English Bay was waiting for his phone call.

“One thing led to another and here I am,” Alborn said.

As part of the deal, English Bay had to do some major repairs. Before selling the hotel to him, English Bay hired Excalibur Construction to make the repairs and then Alborn bought the hotel, with the corporation financing the sale. The hotel also comes with the old Sterling Café between the hotel and Alice’s Champagne Palace.

According to Homer historian Janet Klein, original owners Al and Esther Heady started building the three-story log building in 1946 and opened it as a hotel in April of 1948, naming it after them — the Heady Hotely. They constructed the hotel of three-sided, milled logs on a poured concrete first floor cut into the side of the hill. The second floor is at street level on the Pioneer Avenue side.

The area near Main Street and Pioneer Avenue includes many of Homer’s oldest buildings, including the Kranich House (next to Don Jose’s) and a flat-roofed building next to it (now the Hair Gallery) that once the police station; the Homer Theatre; the Jones House across the street from King’s Landing; the Homer Cash Store or Walli’s by NOMAR, and the Shelford House, a former post office that’s now Kharacters Bar.

“You couldn’t ask for a better location,” Alborn said. “It’s right in the middle of town.”

Harris and Thelma Gordon bought the Heady Hotel in 1958 and added a second building to the west. David and Eileen Becker bought the hotel in 1973, selling it in 1980. The Beckers added a new wing on the south or back side in 1976.

“There’s lots of history, lots of good memories in that place. It was kind of the cornerstone. We had in our ad, ‘the Heady Hotel is the heart of Homer,’” Eileen Becker said. “We met a lot of nice people.”

A group bought the hotel from the Beckers and also owned the Driftwood Inn and the Baycrest Inn. After they defaulted on a loan, the Beckers got the hotel back and then sold it to Mike and LeAnn McHone, who renamed it the Heritage Hotel. The McHones owned it from 1987 until 2004, when English Bay bought it.

“I think we all wish Abe good luck there. It’s ready for new blood,” Mike McHone said.

Eileen Becker said the historic hotel was the former headquarters for Homer Electric Association and also had Homer’s first jail. The logs came from Yukon Island, she said.

Alborn’s connection to the hotel goes back 15 years. The son of Sandy Alborn and the grandson of Homer pioneers Ralph and Betty Miller, Alborn remembered playing games like “Magic: The Gathering” in the lobby.

For the remodel, Alborn replaced the north and east walls with 2-by-6 frame lumber and log siding. Many of the original logs had rotted, he said. Those walls got new windows, insulation and sheetrock, making the rooms a lot cozier.

“It would have been nice to keep it all original, but that was way beyond my expertise,” Alborn said,

This year, he plans to upgrade the 33 units with new carpet and furnishings. In 2018 he will replace the old café next door and put in offices for Excalibur and a new venue for the Dragon’s Den. He also plans a small café with espresso for the hotel. This year he also will have a continental breakfast in the hotel.

Other future plans involve expanding the hotel to include family suites, a conference room and a gift shop. All the rooms are no-smoking and some are pet friendly.

Alborn and night manager John Anderson both live on the premises. He said his mom also plans to work the front desk a few days a week. Alborn also would like to hold the Kachemak Bay Gaming Conference there. The website, kingslandingalaska.com, goes live soon. Dan Coe’s Handmade Signs company designed and made the new sign.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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