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Russian-American Company Magazin (Baranof Museum, Erskine House)
The oldest Russian building in Alaska, this is a fine example of the heavy log blocklike construction of the Russians. The hewn-log structure was built as a warehouse, or magazin, for the Russian-American Company, probably before 1808. As originally constructed, the one-and-a-half-story structure measured 67 feet by 33 feet and had a steep hipped roof. Dovetailed at the corners, the 12-inch wide logs are rough hewn, grooved on the bottom to fit over the log below, and chinked with moss. A log cross wall divided the building into two unequal portions. With its broad face positioned toward the water, the magazin was a substantial and solid structure.
Some time in the nineteenth century, several major alterations were made to the structure. The roof form was changed from hip to gable and a large pediment was added in the center of the front facade. The building was sided—perhaps first with vertical redwood siding and later with clapboards—and a one-story porch, incorporated under the roof, was constructed across the front.
The Russian-American Company, which had a monopoly on trade in Alaska, constructed this building as a warehouse. After the sale of Alaska, the Alaska Commercial Company bought most of the Russian-American Company's buildings, including this one. The Alaska Commercial Company dominated the fur trade in western Alaska, just as the Russian-American Company had done before it.
A bay window on one end, added around the turn of the twentieth century, indicates that the building was then being used as a residence. In 1911, the Alaska Commercial Company sold the building to its long-time employee, W. J. Erskine, who lived here with his family until 1948. During his ownership, the first floor was divided into about eight rooms. Erskine enclosed part of the front porch with glass in 1942. Since 1967, the house has been operated as a museum by the Kodiak Historical Society.
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