As the connections between communities on Kodiak Island are limited to sea or air transport, Spruce Island, just 10 miles north of the town of Kodiak, is closer and more easily reached from the town than are many other communities on Kodiak Island. Set back from the water about half a mile in sylvan surroundings, the small chapel is an exquisite piece of architecture. The nave is nearly square in plan, measuring about 19 feet by 21 feet; its double-pitched hip roof emphasizes its squareness. The sanctuary also has a hip roof, peaking near the nave, thus leading the eye inward and upward. The gable roof of the small vestibule echoes the pitch of the nave's roof. The interior is plain, finished in beaded boards, painted light blue. The iconostas is constructed of fixed doors, as part of the wall between the operable doors. There is no electricity, heat, or water. The building is located miles from the nearest community.
Although today the chapel is strongly identified with Father Herman, who in 1970 became the first American saint of the Russian Orthodox church, the chapel was originally built in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the introduction of Russian Orthodoxy to America and named after the founders of the monastery at Valaam, where the missionaries originated. When they arrived in Alaska in 1794, missionaries met with hostility from Alexander Baranov, company manager at Kodiak. Despite these constraints, Father Herman founded an orphanage for Natives on Spruce Island and moved here permanently sometime after 1808. He died in 1837 and was buried here with a disciple, Hieromonk Ioasaph. Forty years later, the chapel was erected between their two graves.
Father Herman's memory began to be revived with the appearance of Father Gerasim on Spruce Island in the 1930s. Father Gerasim, who devoted his life to the memory of Father Herman, repaired the chapel and probably was responsible for having the two graves moved under the chapel. When Father Herman was canonized, his remains were moved to Kodiak. The chapel is used for special services a few times a year.