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.
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.