Historic Sitka

We have many National Historic Landmark and other National Register properties in Sitka, but we also have many historic neighborhoods and districts, which might not even be eligible for listing, and yet are historic and a reminder of our history as a community.


Lincoln Street and the downtown landscape is largely the same as it was in Russian times. St. Michael’s Cathedral dominates the street. Open spaces now Totem Square and the Pioneer Home gardens have been open, and public, since the Transfer. Building spacing and massing – low and blocky and close to the street – is also much the same.

Our downtown is a chronicle of changing tastes in vernacular commercial architecture, with a practical and unpretentious feel.

Sitka Indian Village

Our most historic district. The original Tlingit settlement was probably facing the beach (now obliterated by fill) to the east of Noow Tlein (Castle Hill). After Russian occupation of that site, Tlingit clans rebuilt a village just to the northwest of the Russian fort in the 1820s.

This district, while most of the original houses are gone, still has much of the feeling of the closely-spaced residential district it was for over a century. A few of the old Clan Houses remain.

In the 20th century this became Sitka’s waterfront industrial district, and many of those buildings, and the colorful, seafood-scented, busy working waterfront feel is still there.

Etolin, Biorka, Baranof, Lake, DeGroff Streets neighborhoods

Growth in the years around WWII led to the construction of scores of of one-and a half story, gable-roofed cottages in Sitka, many in these neighborhoods, many built on muskeg. Most have since been remodeled, but here and there one is still original. The small lots are also a reminder of this time.

Cozy Homes

Sitka’s Alaska Lumber and Pulp Corporation Mill was built in 1959. The need for housing for all the workers led the company to put up pre-fab houses, called Cozy Homes, on Lakeview Drive, Crabapple Drive, and Peterson and Cascade Streets.

These houses were once identical, one-story homes.Some have been replaced, but it’s kind of fun to see how they have been altered over the years.

The Sitka Box

Another housing crunch came in the late 1970s; Sitka’s population doubled between 1970 and 1980. This led first to the creation of many trailer courts, then many homes and duplexes on similar, extremely plain, builder-designed plans. Many of these homes have a split-level entrance, with a short stairway to the upper floor and a short stairway to the basement. Many of them are sided with the most economical siding available: T1-11 (t-one-eleven) plywood, which has a textured, grooved exterior surface.






Properties in Sitka on the National Register of Historic Places and Dates Added

Properties in Sitka on the National Register of Historic Places

Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall National Historic Landmark (1972)

American Flag Raising Site (Castle Hill/Noow Tlein) National Historic Landmark (1966)

Russian American Building 29/Tilson Building National Historic Landmark (1987)

Russian Bishop’s House National Historic Landmark (1966)

St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral National Historic Landmark (1966)

Sitka Naval Operating Base and U.S. Army Coastal Defenses National Historic Landmark (1986)

Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark (2001)

Old Sitka National Historic Landmark (1966)

Cable House and Station (1979)

Emmons House (1977)

Hanlon-Osbakken House (1992)

Mae Mills House (1978)

W. P. Mills House (1977)

Abner Murray Apartments and Cottages (1992)

St. Peter’s By the Sea Church (1978)

St. Peter’s See House (1978)

Sheldon Jackson Museum (1972)

Sitka National Historical Park (1966)

Sitka Pioneer’s Home (1979)

USCG&GS Seismological & Geomagnetic House “White House” (1986)

Sitka U.S. Post Office and Court House (1997)

Sitka National Cemetery (2012)


Timeline of Historic Preservation on Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark

From Ed Crittenden’s The Architecture of the Sheldon Jackson College Campus 1887-1990
Photo 2016 by Dan Evans

Sheldon Jackson Campus Historic Preservation Timeline

1991 The Architecture of the Sheldon Jackson College Campus 1887-1990 by Edwin B. Crittenden, F.A.I.A.

Mid 1990s – Sheldon Jackson College asks Assembly for waiver on disposal fees for tearing down Allen Hall. Building saved by their lack of funds to take it down and replace.

1999 National Trust for Historic Preservation names the Richard H. Allen Memorial Building to its Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places

AMPPI (Allen Memorial Preservation Project, Inc.) forms to save Allen, raises $1.5 million, mostly through Senator Stevens, and turn the project over to the college.

2001 Designation of Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark

Early 2000s Historical Architect Linda Millard designs plan for historic rehabilitation of Allen Hall, contractor Dawson completes exterior before money runs out.

2004 Historic American Buildings Survey of the campus, complete architectural drawings of the five buildings of the quadrangle. Original 1910 blueprints and the HABS drawings have been invaluable.

2004 Campus Preservation Plan by University of Oregon Program in Historic Preservation, NPS, and Getty Foundation

2007 Sheldon Jackson College closes, sells property to settle debt.

2008 Alaska Association for Historic Preservation names campus to Twelve Most Endangered Historic Properties list, and 2010 names Sage Building to Ten Most Endangered list.

2010 National Trust for Historic Preservation names Sitka one of 2010 Dozen Distinctive Destinations

2011 Fine Arts Camp deeded core campus; Sitka Summer Music Festival had bought Stevenson Hall, and Sitka Sound Science Center purchases the Sage Building. Stratton Library purchased by State of Alaska for extension of Sheldon Jackson Museum.

Massive, unprecedented volunteer effort to save campus buildings, after decades of deferred maintenance and no heat for four winters. Historic preservation principles guide work from the start. Focus of first winters is on restoring North Pacific Hall interior, and in 2013/15 Whitmore Hall interior.

2012-2015: Allen Hall, with its auditorium renamed Odess Theater, rehabilitation completed to design by historical architect Linda Millard, with major funding by Carol Odess.

2012 Sheldon Jackson School and College Oral History project begins; over 50 persons interviewed to date

2013 “Bulldogs on Baranof” now the Historic Restoration Team program. Recent college graduates and students come for 4 weeks in the summer. 2013 work is on Allen interior and Hames Center roof.

2014 CLG grant for window restoration, historic windows workshop, and brochure on the NHL. Historic Restoration Team rebuilds the roof of the Laundry Building, which was in critical condition, to historic preservation standards.

2015 Historic Restoration Team restores the facade of the North Pacific Hall, using a CLG grant. Sitka Summer Music Festival uses Historic Preservation Fund grant for plans for Rehabilitation of Stevenson Hall, and repairs foundation; Sitka Sound Science Center does massive historic preservation project to restore walls and windows on the Sage Building.

2016 CLG grant for Historic Restoration Team to restore Whitmore Hall facade

2016 Restoration of concrete porch North Pacific Hall

Landscaping for Allen Hall based on the original 1910 Ludlow and Peabody design

NPS sponsored historic preservation workshops on campus in May 2016

Historic Preservation Definitions

Historic Preservation Definitions

Historic Preservation is the preservation and protection of buildings and landscapes of historical significance.

“Architecture is a direct and substantial representation of history and place. By preserving historic structures, we are able to share the very spaces and environments in which the generations before us lived” (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation). Preservation of historic landscapes and structures helps us to understand the past. Preservation is environmentally sustainable, and builds local economies and community pride.

1966 National Historic Preservation Act includes guidelines for historic preservation, and a structure for states and local governments to monitor and encourage historic preservation. It includes:

Section 106 of the act requires federal undertakings (as well as projects receiving federal funding) be reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Officer for their impact on historic resources.

State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) is a federal appointment in each state responsible for implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The National Register of Historic Places, a list of sites of historical significance, with National Historic Landmark status for sites of national significance, is managed by the National Park Service. A property has historical significance, and is at least 50 years old, to be eligible for listing.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, revised in 1995, also managed by the National Park Service, includes four Treatments: Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction. Rehabilitation is the most common, recognizing the need to modify a property for a new use. Standards for Rehabilitation are attached.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards in Archaeology and Historic Preservation are for federal contractors in History, Historic Architecture, Archaeology, and Architectural History. The State Office of History and Archeology maintains a list of qualified professionals, but it includes anyone who asks to be on it, and it is up to users to verify qualifications.

A Certified Local Government (CLG) is a local government certified to participate in federal historic preservation funding and programs. Requirements include having a Historic Preservation Commission and local review of projects that may have an impact on historic resources. In 1994 the City and Borough of Sitka became a Certified Local Government.

It is a common misperception that federal law restricts what a private property owner can do, but it does not unless there are federal funds involved. Because historic preservation is voluntary, local Historic Preservation Commissions have an important role in educating the public about its value and importance.

The Historic Preservation Fund is federal funding for implementation of the NHPA.

CLG Grants are federal Historic Preservation Fund Grants that go to Certified Local Governments.

Alaska Office of History and Archeaology (OHA), part of state government, provides technical resources for historic preservation, and reviews state projects for their impact on historic resources, per state law. The Alaska Historical Commission is the citizen review board for state history policy.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, begun in1949, became an independent nonprofit in1996.

Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) began in 1933, documenting historic structures in detail. Drawings are archived at the Library of Congress. Many Sitka buildings are included.

Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives include a 20% tax credit for the costs of rehabilitation of commercial buildings that are listed on the National Register which are rehabilitated according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Other incentives include a 10% credit for substantial rehabilitation of non-historic buildings placed in service before 1936, and a tax credit for donating a historic preservation easement.

Old Photos of Sitka

Many of these photographs are from Sitka’s Photo Shop Studio, owned and operated by James Gilpatrick and his daughter, Mrs. Louella Smith. Here is an article about her and the business. sitkafromtower1928-detail-jpeg

Sitka in the late 1920s from one of the radio towers on Japonski Island; Photo Shop photo.


The Photo Shop. The building still stands in downtown Sitka, though it has been extensively remodeled; it is now the Homeport Eatery.12240224_10205374723669347_7980247471762149368_o12239348_10205374579985755_4146101328463901275_o12239257_10205374751790050_4693367235822383035_o12238479_10205374763430341_5942051572019966841_o12238422_10205374255097633_3688327822483233297_o12238403_10205374418021706_6771704275615904183_o

“Baranof’s Castle” (Russian American Company Chief Manager’s house and administrative offices) burned in 1894. The Custom House survived and was in use until 1936, when it burned down.12238395_10205374436862177_5174707632975367722_o12238162_10205374253017581_8026740081292037072_o12238042_10205374444462367_7891203819390551207_o12238020_10205374560705273_1581666708532786634_o12232926_10205374253897603_7630587472557013745_o12038839_10205374266217911_799405106321467401_oim000012im000038im000016

The Kostrometinof store and home. This building still stands and is an apartment building behind the Cathedral Arms.aerial-japonski-67

1966 aerial photo of Japonski Island.spyramid-packing

E. W. Merrill photograph of the Pyramid Packing Plant, built in 1918. This building is now the Fisherman’s Quay and Murray Pacific store.slnavy-1914

The U.S. Government coaling facility on Japonski Island. The rear coal storage building still stands, and is part of the Mt. Edgecumbe High School.s1960s-aerials1867-maybe

Sitka, 1867, from the first Coast Pilot.village-from-air